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Geohazards Expert to Lead UM Geological Engineering Department

By Louise Tyson

University of Mississippi

Thomas Oommen is joining the University of Mississippi School of Engineering as chair of its Department of Geology and Geological Engineering. He comes to Ole Miss from Michigan Technological University, where he has been a faculty member for more than 10 years. Submitted photo

Thomas Oommen, an expert in geohazard risk assessment, is slated to join the University of Mississippi School of Engineering as chair of its Department of Geology and Geological Engineering.

“I believe in the immense potential of the department, and I am committed to creating a positive and supportive environment for all the members,” said Oommen, who is coming to Ole Miss after spending more than a decade at Michigan Technological University. 

“As the department chair, I will prioritize academic excellence, promote scholarly research and foster a culture of collaboration and innovation.”

At Michigan Tech, Oommen is a professor in the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences and the director of its computational science and engineering doctoral program.

His research interests include geohazard risk assessment and critical infrastructure system monitoring. He has adopted an interdisciplinary research approach that integrates geological engineering concepts with tools from two main areas: remote sensing for obtaining data and artificial intelligence and machine learning for data processing and modeling.

He has received more than $10.5 million in research and travel grants for his work. One of his recent projects, funded by the National Science Foundation, is designed to help develop tools that rural counties can use to enhance flooding and coastal disaster resilience. 

He also has received a grant from the Federal Railroad Administration to create an automated decision support system to monitor ground hazard risks such as landslides.

His ambitions extend to the geology and geological engineering department.

“I aim to enhance the department’s reputation and visibility by cultivating research partnerships with other institutions, organizations and industries,” he said. “I am eager to showcase the accomplishments of the department’s members to a broader audience and raise awareness of the department’s contributions to the field.”

Oommen has led Michigan Tech’s computational science and engineering doctoral program since 2019. Since, he has significantly grown the program – leveraging the available resources and attracting new faculty to participate in the interdisciplinary program. He also has mentored several students in pursuing prestigious fellowships.

“To drive a successful graduate program, it is important to have funded research projects and it is equally important to mentor students to apply for competitive fellowship programs like the NSF graduate research fellowship, NASA’s FINESST program, the Department of Defense’s SMART fellowship and more,” he said.

Oommen received his doctorate in civil and environmental engineering from Tufts University with an emphasis in geotechnical engineering. Before that, he obtained a master’s in geological engineering department of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks and his bachelor’s in engineering from Bangalore University.

He joins the School of Engineering team in August. Gregg Davidson, who has been the department chair since 2013, will return to full-time faculty status.

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