Name: Daniel Thomas
URI Title: Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Three adjectives he’d use to describe himself: curious, active, friendly
New assistant professor of chemistry, Dr. Daniel Thomas, joins the URI community after spending some time “across the pond” as they say, working the last few years as an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Researcher at the Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin, Germany. During his time in Germany, Thomas used an infrared free-electron laser to probe the structure of molecular ions trapped in helium nanodroplets.
In making his decision to work at URI, Thomas looked to his fellow faculty members and how they would ultimately affect his teaching. “I think that the faculty at URI are extremely approachable and friendly, and this environment translates into better student experiences and more opportunities for collaborative research,” he says. On the topic of research, Thomas seeks to further explore the work he undertook in Germany, stating, “I’m excited to continue working with helium nanodroplets and infrared spectroscopy. When you trap a molecule in a helium nanodroplet, it’s cooled down to the very low temperature of 0.4 K (that’s about -273 degrees Celsius, or -459 degrees Fahrenheit). When molecules are this cold, we can examine their structure very precisely using an infrared laser. My goal is to apply this technology to study atmospheric chemistry, biomolecular structure, and catalysis.”
Although his first semester as an assistant professor at URI might look a little different than it would’ve in previous years, Thomas still looks forward to pursuing his research while teaching CHM 507. This graduate-level course, as Thomas puts it, is aimed at providing students with an overview of important topics in quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics. As for other students in the liberal arts at URI either just beginning their collegiate journeys — or those who are already on theirs — Thomas advises, “Take advantage of the opportunities you have at URI to go beyond coursework, for example, by participating in experiential education or by engaging with professors. You can learn a lot by getting out of the classroom and having a hands-on experience or by listening to advice from your instructors!”
~Written by Chase Hoffman, Writing & Rhetoric and Anthropology Double Major, URI Class of December 2020