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Brian Thomas

Brian Thomas

Professor
Physics and Astronomy
College of Arts and Sciences
Contact
Stoffer Science Hall
Rm 210C
1700 SW College Ave
Topeka, KS 66621-1117
785.670.2144
Degrees & Certifications
University of the Pacific, Bachelor of Science
The University of Kansas, Master of Science
The University of Kansas, Doctor of Philosophy
Teaching
  • AS 104 A, Life in the Universe
  • HN 303 A, Seminar Nat Science Math
  • PS 126 A, Phys Sci for Elem Ed
  • PS 334 A, Thermodynamics
  • PS 360 A, Physics Research
  • PS 365 A, Intro to Theoretical Physics
  • PS 368 A, Computational Physics Research
Scholarly Interests/Activities

Impacts of high-energy astrophysical radiation on Earth’s atmosphere and biosphere.

Astrobiology/Astrobiophysics (Active collaborator with Astrobiophysics Working Group at the University of Kansas)

Atmospheric chemistry and dynamics modeling

High-energy Astrophysics

Impacts of radiation on biological systems, especially marine primary producers

Ecological impacts of high-energy radiation events

Connections between radiation events and mass extinctions

Service Interests/Activities

Actively involve students in research projects.

Active in public outreach in physics and astronomy.  Frequent presenter for school, community and religious groups in Topeka, Lawrence, Kansas City and elsewhere, including Kansas Children’s Discovery Center in Topeka.

Member of organizing committees for Washburn’s annual student research forum, the Apeiron, as well as for the annual Mid-American Regional Astrophysics Conference.

Frequent reviewer for articles submitted to professional journals including Astrobiology, Annales Geophysicae, and the International Journal of Astrobiology.

Career Accomplishments

Principle Investigator on 3-year (2014-2016), $500,000 research project funded by NASA’s Astrobiology program, in collaboration with the University of Kansas and Mid-America Nazarene University.

Principle Investigator on 3-year (2009-2012), $500,000 research project funded by NASA’s Astrobiology program, in collaboration with the University of Kansas and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

As of 2015, first-author or co-author on approximately 25 peer-reviewed articles since 2004.  Many articles include undergraduate students as co-authors. Invited speaker for several international conferences. My work has been frequently featured in news articles online and in print, as well as in several television documentaries.

Publications (* indicates undergraduate student)

 

Refereed Articles

  • “From cosmic explosions to terrestrial fires?” A.L. Melott, B.C. Thomas, Journal of Geology, in press, doi: 10.1086/703418, 2019.
  •  “Terrestrial effects of moderately nearby supernovae,” A.L. Melott, B.C. Thomas, Lethaia, 51, doi: 10.1111/let.12256, 2018.
  •  “Photobiological effects at Earth’s surface following a 50 pc Supernova,” B.C. Thomas, Astrobiology, 18, doi: 10.1089/ast.2017.1730, 2018.
  •  “Radiation as a constraint for life in the universe,” X.C. Abrevaya, B.C. Thomas. Chapter 10. In: Habitability of the Universe Before Earth [in series: Astrobiology: Exploring Life on Earth and Beyond], Ed.: R. Gordon & A.A. Sharov. Amsterdam, Elsevier B.V., 2018.
  •  “Extraordinary biomass-burning episode and impact winter triggered by the Younger Dryas cosmic impact ~12,800 years ago;?Part 1: Ice cores and glaciers,” W.S. Wolbach, J.P. Ballard, P.A. Mayewski, V. Adedeji, T.E. Bunch, R.B. Firestone, T.A. French, G.A. Howard, I.Israde-Alcántara, J.R. Johnson, D. Kimbel, C.R. Kinzie, A. Kurbatov, G.K. Kletetschka, M.A. LeCompte, W.C. Mahaney, A.L. Melott, A. Maiorana-Boutilier, S. Mitra, C.R. Moore, W.M. Napier, J. Parlier, K.B. Tankersley, B.C. Thomas, J.H. Wittke, A. West, J.P. Kennett, J. of Geology, 126, doi: 10.1086/695703, 2018.
  •  “Extraordinary biomass-burning episode and impact winter triggered by the Younger Dryas cosmic impact ~12,800 years ago;?Part 2: Lake, marine, and terrestrial sediments,” W.S. Wolbach, J.P. Ballard, P.A. Mayewski, A.C. Parnell, N. Cahill, V. Adedeji, T.E. Bunch, G.Domínguez-Vázquez, J.M. Erlandson, R.B. Firestone, T.A. French, G. Howard, I. Israde-Alcántara, J.R. Johnson, D. Kimbel, C.R. Kinzie, A. Kurbatov, G.K. Kletetschka, M.A. LeCompte, W.C. Mahaney, A.L. Melott, S. Mitra, A. Maiorana-Boutilier, C.R. Moore, W.M. Napier, J. Parlier, K.B. Tankersley, B.C. Thomas, J.H. Wittke, A. West, J.P. Kennett, J. of Geology, 126, doi: 10.1086/695704, 2018.
  •  “A Supernova At 50 pc: Effects on the Earth’s Atmosphere and Biota,” A.L. Melott, B.C. Thomas, M. Kachelrieß, D.V. Semikoz, and A. C. Overholt, Astrophysical Journal, 840, doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aa6c57, 2017.
  • “Atmospheric constituents and surface-level UVB: implications for a paleoaltimetry proxy and attempts to reconstruct UV exposure during volcanic episodes,” B.C. Thomas, B.D. Goracke*, S.M. Dalton*, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 453, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2016.08.014, 2016.
  • “Terrestrial Effects Of Nearby Supernovae In The Early Pleistocene,” B.C. Thomas, E.E. Engler*, M. Kachelrieß, A.L. Melott, A.C. Overholt, D.V. Semikoz, Astrophysical Journal, 826, doi: 10.3847/2041-8205/826/1/L3, 2016.
  • “Inhibition by ultraviolet and photosynthetically available radiation lowers model estimates of depth-integrated picophytoplankton photosynthesis: global predictions for Prochlorococcus and Synechococcus,” P.J. Neale, B.C. Thomas, Global Change Biology, doi: 10.1111/gcb.13356, 2016.
  • “Solar irradiance changes and phytoplankton productivity in Earth's ocean following astrophysical ionizing radiation events,” P.J. Neale, B.C. Thomas, Astrobiology, 16, doi: 10.1089/ast.2015.1360, 2016.
  • “Atmospheric ionization by solar proton events and their probable appearance in the ice core archive,” A.L. Melott, B.C. Thomas, C.M. Laird, B. Neuenswander, D. Atri, Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 121, doi:10.1002/2015JD024064, 2016.
  •  “Ground-level ozone following astrophysical ionizing radiation events: an additional biological hazard?” B.C. Thomas, B.D. Goracke*, Astrobiology, 16, 1, doi: 10.1089/ast.2015.1311, 2016.
  • “Solar irradiance changes and photobiological effects at Earth’s surface following astrophysical ionizing radiation events,” B.C Thomas, P.J. Neale, B.R. Snyder II*, Astrobiology, 15, 207, doi:10.1089/ast.2014.1224, 2015.
  • “Terrestrial effects of possible astrophysical sources of an AD 774-775 increase in 14C production,” B.C. Thomas, A.L. Melott, K.R. Arkenberg*, and B.R. Snyder II*, Geophysical Research Letters, 40, 1-4. DOI: 10.1002/grl.50222, 2013.
  • “Causes of an AD 774-775 14C increase,” A.L. Melott and B.C. Thomas, Nature, 491, doi: 10.1038/nature11695, 2012.
  • “Getting the Swing of Surface Gravity,” B.C. Thomasand M. Quick*, The Physics Teacher, 50, 232, doi: 10.1119/1.3694077, 2012.
  • “Astrophysical Ionizing Radiation and the Earth: A Brief Review and Census of Intermittent Intense Sources,” A.L. Melott and B.C. Thomas, Astrobiology, 11, 343, doi: 10.1089/ast.2010.0603, 2011. Featured cover image of the May issue.
  • “Lookup Tables to Compute High Energy Cosmic Ray Induced Atmospheric Ionization and changes in Atmospheric Chemistry,” D. Atri, A. L. Melott, and B.C. Thomas, J. Cosmology and Astroparticle Phys., 5, 8, doi: 10.1088/1475-7516/2010/05/008, 2010.
  • “Atmospheric consequences of cosmic ray variability in the extragalactic shock model: 2. Revised ionization levels and their consequences,” A.L. Melott, D. Atri, B.C. Thomas, M.V. Medvedev, G.W. Wilson, and M.J. Murray, J. Geophys. Res., 115, E08002, doi:10.1029/2010JE003591, 2010.
  • “Cometary airbursts and atmospheric chemistry: Tunguska and a candidate Younger Dryas event,” A.L. Melott, B.C. Thomas, G. Dreschhoff, C.K. Johnson, Geology, 38, 383, 2010. This paper was the “Research Focus” for the April 2010 issue of Geology: http://geology.geoscienceworld.org/cgi/content/full/38/4/383
  • “Gamma-Ray Bursts as a Threat to Life on Earth,” B.C. Thomas, International Journal of Astrobiology, 8, 183, doi:10.1017/S1473550409004509, 2009.
  • “Late Ordovician geographic patterns of extinction compared with simulations of astrophysical ionizing radiation damage,” A.L. Melott and B.C. Thomas, Paleobiology, 35, 311, 2009.
  • “An In-Class Discussion Activity on the Nature of Science and Intelligent Design,” B. C. Thomas, The Physics Teacher, 47, 106, doi: 10.1119/1.3072458, 2009.
  • “Amphibian nitrate stress as an additional terrestrial threat from astrophysical ionizing radiation events?” B.C. Thomas, M.D. Honeyman*, Astrobiology, 8, 731, doi:10.1089/ast.2007.0262, 2008.
  • “Atmospheric Consequences of Cosmic Ray Variability in the Extragalactic Shock Model,” A. L. Melott, A. J. Krejci*, B. C. Thomas, M. V. Medvedev, G. W. Wilson, M. J. Murray, Journal of Geophysical Research,113, E10007, doi:10.1029/2008JE00320, 2008.
  • “Superluminous supernovae: No threat from Eta Carinae,” B. C. Thomas, A. L. Melott, B. D. Fields, B. J. Anthony-Twarog, Astrobiology, 8, 9, doi:10.1089/ast.2007.0181, 2008.
  • “Modeling atmospheric effects of the September 1859 Solar Flare,” B. C. Thomas, C. H. Jackman, A. L. Melott, Geophysical Research Letters, 34, L06810, doi:10.1029/2006GL029174, 2007.
  • “Terrestrial Consequences of Spectral and Temporal Variability in Ionizing Photon Events,” L. M. Ejzak*, A. L. Melott, M. V. Medvedev, B. C. Thomas, Astrophysical Journal, 654, 373, 2007.
  • “Gamma-ray bursts and terrestrial planetary atmospheres,” B. C. Thomas, A. L. Melott, New Journal of Physics, 8, 120, 2006.
  • “Gamma-Ray Bursts and the Earth: Exploration of Atmospheric, Biological, Climatic and Biogeochemical Effects,” B. C. Thomas, A. L. Melott, C. H. Jackman, C. M. Laird, M. V. Medvedev, R. S. Stolarski, N. Gehrels, J. K. Cannizzo, D. P. Hogan*, L. M. Ejzak*, Astrophysical Journal, 634, 509, 2005.
  • “Climatic and biogeochemical effects of a galactic gamma ray burst,” A. L. Melott, B. C. Thomas, D. P. Hogan*, L. M. Ejzak*, C. H. Jackman, Geophysical Research Letters, 32, L14808, 2005.
  • “Terrestrial Ozone Depletion Due to a Milky Way Gamma-Ray Burst,” B. C. Thomas, C. H. Jackman, A. L. Melott, C. M. Laird, R. S. Stolarski, N. Gehrels, J. K. Cannizzo, D. P. Hogan*, Astrophysical Journal Letters, 622, L153, 2005.
  • “Did a gamma-ray burst initiate the late Ordovician mass extinction?” A. Melott, B. Lieberman, C. Laird, L. Martin, M. Medvedev, B. Thomas, J. Cannizzo, N. Gehrels, C. Jackman, International Journal of Astrobiology, 3, 55, 2004.
  • “Quantifying the Bull's Eye Effect,” B. C. Thomas, A. L. Melott, H. A. Feldman, S. F. Shandarin, Astrophysical Journal, 601, 28, 2004.

Presentations and Conferences Attended (* indicates undergraduate student)

National and International

  • Invited speaker to “Frontiers in Nonlinear and Stochastic Modeling of Mass Extinctions,” at the Mathematical Biosciences Institute, Columbus, OH, March 28-29, 2019. Presented talk entitled “Astrophysics and Mass Extinctions.”
  • “Possible linkage between supernovae, increased terrestrial lightning, and wildfire activity in the Late Miocene and Early Pleistocene,” B.C. Thomas, presented at American Geophysical Union Fall meeting, New Orleans, LA, December 14, 2017.
  • “Possible linkage between supernovae, increased terrestrial lightning, and wildfire activity in the Late Miocene and Early Pleistocene,” B.C. Thomas, presented at Geological Society of America annual meeting, Seattle, WA, October 22, 2017.
  • “Effects of Nearby Supernovae in the Early Pleistocene,” B.C. Thomas, A.L. Melott, A.C. Overholt, M. Kachelrieß, D.V. Semikoz, and E.E. Engler, Presented at Astrobiology Science Conference, Mesa, AZ, April 25, 2017.
  • “Terrestrial Effects of Nearby Supernovae in the Early Pleistocene,” B.C. Thomas, E.E. Enlger, M. Kachelrieß, A.L. Melott, A.C. Overholt, D.V. Semikoz, Presented at Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Denver, CO, September 26, 2016.
  • Invited participant in CESM Tutorial at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, August 8-12, 2016.
  • “Solar irradiance changes and photobiological effects at earth’s surface following astrophysical ionizing radiation events,” B.C. Thomas, P.J. Neale, Presented at American Astronomical Society 227th Meeting, Orlando, FL, January 6, 2016.
  • “Solar irradiance changes and photobiological effects at earth’s surface following astrophysical ionizing radiation events,” B.C. Thomas, P.J. Neale, and B.R. Snyder II*, Presented at Astrobiology Science Conference, Chicago, IL, June 15, 2015.
  • “Terrestrial effects of a Solar proton event at AD 774-775,” B.C. Thomas, Presented at American Astronomical Society 225th Meeting, Seattle, WA, January 8, 2015.
  • “Astrophysical Events as Episodic Threats to Life on Earth,” B.C. Thomas, Presented at Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, October 27, 2013.
  • “Astrophysical Ionizing Radiation Sources and Life on Earth,” B.C. Thomas, Presented at American Physical Society April Meeting, Denver, CO, April 16, 2013.
  • Invited speaker to “Life and the Cosmos Workshop,” Washington, D.C., September 5-6, 2012 (organized by Jeremy Drake, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics). Presented talk entitled “Terrestrial Effects of Ionizing Radiation Events” with research collaborator Dr. Patrick Neale of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.
  • “Revisiting the Carrington Event: Updated modeling of atmospheric effects,” B.C. Thomas, K.R. Arkenberg*, B.R. Snyder II*, Presented at NASA’s Living with a Star Workshop: Extreme Space Weather Events, Boulder, CO, May 14-17, 2012.
  • “Astrophysics and Extinctions: New rate estimates for potentially lethal ionizing radiation events,” B.C. Thomas, A.L. Melott, Presented at Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Minneapolis, MN, October 9, 2011.
  • “Improved Modeling Of Atmospheric Effects Of The September 1859 Solar Flare,” K. Arkenberg*, B.C. Thomas, Presented at American Astronomical Society 217th Meeting, Seattle, WA, January 10, 2011.
  • “Gamma-Ray Bursts and Marine Primary Producers,” B.C. Thomas, P.J. Neale, Presented at American Astronomical Society 217th Meeting, Seattle, WA, January 12, 2011.
  • Attended “Cosmos in the Classroom: A Hands-on Symposium on Teaching Introductory Astronomy,” held at the annual meeting of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Boulder, CO, August 2-4, 2010.
  • “Improving Estimates of Biospheric Effects of Gamma-Ray Bursts,” B.C. Thomas, P.J. Neale, N.F. May*, Presented at Astrobiology Science Conference, Houston, TX, April 26, 2010.
  • “Late Ordovician geographic patterns of extinction compared with simulations of astrophysical ionizing radiation damage,” B.C. Thomas, A.L. Melott, Presented at Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Portland, OR, October 20, 2009.
  • Invited speakerto 42ndannual ESLAB symposium on “Cosmic Cataclysms and Life,” Frascati, Italy, November 10-14, 2008. Spoke on the topic of “Gamma-Ray Bursts and the Earth.”
  • “Superluminous supernovae: No threat from Eta Carinae,” B.C. Thomas, Presented at American Astronomical Society 212th Meeting, St. Louis, MO, June 1, 2008.
  • “Modeling Atmospheric Effects of the September 1859 Solar Flare,” B.C. Thomas, C.H. Jackman, A. Melott, Presented at American Astronomical Society 209th Meeting, Seattle, WA, January 7, 2007.
  • “Terrestrial Effects of a 30 pc Supernova,” B.C. Thomas, A. Melott, D. Hogan*, Presented at American Astronomical Society 207th Meeting, Washington, DC, January 9, 2006.

Regional and Local

  • “Effects of Nearby Supernovae in the Early Pleistocene,” B.C. Thomas, presented at the 151st Annual Meeting of the Kansas Academy of Science, Overland Park, KS, March 30, 2019.
  • “Inquiry-based physical science for pre-service elementary educators,” B.C. Thomas, presented at Washburn University STEM Conference, October 30, 2017.
  • “Effects on Earth’s Atmosphere and Biosphere by a Pleistocene Supernova,” B.C. Thomas, invited colloquium for Benedictine College Department of Physics and Astronomy, October 16, 2017.
  • “Photobiological effects at Earth’s surface following a 50 pc Supernova,” B.C. Thomas, presented at Astrophysics Seminar, University of Kansas Department of Physics and Astronomy, September 13, 2017.
  • “Terrestrial Effects of Nearby Supernovae,” B.C. Thomas, presented at Astrophysics Seminar, University of Kansas Department of Physics and Astronomy, February 21, 2017.
  • “Terrestrial Effects of a Pleistocene Supernova,” B.C. Thomas, invited colloquium for University of Kansas Department of Physics and Astronomy, October 11, 2016.
  • “Death from the skies? Or... Not so much?” B.C. Thomas and P.J. Neale, Presented at Mid-American Regional Astrophysics Conference, Kansas City, MO, April 8, 2016.
  • “What's that Light in the Sky? Investigating the UV and visible light from a nearby Supernova” E. Engler, B.C. Thomas, invited as one of a few Washburn undergraduates at the statewide Undergraduate Research Day at the Kansas State Capital, February 18, 2016.
  • “A Pleistocene Supernova?” B.C. Thomas, A.L. Melott, A. Overholt, Presented at 2013 Annual Meeting of the Society for Cenozoic Research (TerQua), Lawernce, KS, May 26, 2013.
  • “Astrophysics and Life on Earth,” B.C. Thomas, invited colloquium for Kansas State University Department of Physics, November 26, 2012.
  • “Revisiting the Carrington Event: Updated modeling of atmospheric effects,” B.C. Thomas, K.R. Arkenberg*, B.R. Snyder II*, Presented at American Physical Society Prairie Section meeting, Lawrence, KS, November 9, 2012.
  • Invited speaker: 2012 Jerry E. Ruckman Lecture (public audience), Lincoln, NE, October 6, 2012.
  • Invited participant, 14th Astronomy Education Workshop, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE, October 6-7, 2012. Presented: talk for UNL students and workshop participants on “Simulating Supernovae and Gamma-ray Bursts: Effects on the Earth”; break-out session on using baseball to illustrate the concept of surface gravity.
  • “Astrophysics and Extinctions: New Rate Estimates for Potentially Lethal Ionizing Radiation Events,” B.C. Thomas and A.L. Melott, Presented at Mid-American Regional Astrophysics Conference, Lawrence, KS, April 13, 2012.
  • “Ionizing Radiation Events and Phytoplankton Productivity,” B.C. Thomas and P.J. Neale, Presented at the 144stAnnual Meeting of the Kansas Academy of Science, Wichita, KS, March 31, 2012.
  • “Gamma-Ray Bursts and Marine Primary Producers,” B.C. Thomas, Presented at Astrobiophysics seminar, University of Kansas, May 5, 2011.
  • “Gamma-Ray Bursts and Marine Primary Producers,” B.C. Thomas, Presented at Mid-American Regional Astrophysics Conference, Kansas City, MO, April 16, 2011.
  • “Astrophysics and Life on Earth,” B.C. Thomas, invited colloquium for University of Kansas Physics and Astronomy Department, October 11, 2010.
  • “Discussing Science and ‘Intelligent Design’ in a Physical Science Course,” B.C. Thomas, Presented at Mid-American Regional Astrophysics Conference, Kansas City, MO, April 10, 2010.
  • “Comparing simulations of astrophysical ionizing radiation damage with Late Ordovician geographic patterns of extinction,” B.C. Thomas, A.L. Melott, Presented at Mid-American Regional Astrophysics Conference, Kansas City, MO, April 4, 2009.
  • “Late Ordovician geographic patterns of extinction compared with simulations of astrophysical ionizing radiation damage,” B.C. Thomas, A.L. Melott, Presented at the 141stAnnual Meeting of the Kansas Academy of Science, Topeka, KS, March 28, 2009.
  • “How science works: Teaching about science, not just teaching science,” B. C. Thomas, talk for Washburn University Natural Sciences Division Meeting, October 17, 2008.
  • “Superluminous supernovae: No threat from Eta Carinae,” B.C. Thomas, Presented at Mid-American Regional Astrophysics Conference, Kansas City, MO, April 12, 2008.
  • “Modeling Atmospheric Effects of the September 1859 Solar Flare,” B. C. Thomas, Presented at Mid-American Regional Astrophysics Conference, Kansas City, MO, April 14, 2007.
  • “Atmospheric Effects of the September 1859 Solar Superflare,” B. C. Thomas, Presented at Astrobiology Seminar, University of Kansas, September 19, 2006.
  • “Terrestrial Effects of a 30 pc Supernova,” B. C. Thomas, Presented at Mid-American Regional Astrophysics Conference, Kansas City, MO, April 8, 2006.
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