Adams Continues Herman Moench Distinguished Professorship’s Alumni Heritage

Monday, December 02, 2019
Thom Adams

Mechanical engineering professor Thom Adams is one of the few Rose-Hulman faculty members to receive the institute’s outstanding teaching and scholar awards. He also is considered a pioneer in teaching MEMS at the undergraduate level.

Thom Adams will continue the legacy of outstanding alumni educators serving as the esteemed Herman A. Moench Distinguished Professor within the Rose-Hulman faculty.

The award-winning mechanical engineering professor was recently appointed to the position in recognition of Adams’ outstanding work as an educator and academic scholar.

Faculty chairs honor members of the Rose-Hulman faculty for their exemplary accomplishments in teaching and academic scholarship. The holder of the professorship is expected to be exemplary in all areas of faculty responsibility, according to Ella Ingram, associate dean for professional development and professor of biology.

“Named professorships are a major way for the institute to showcase to the world that Rose-Hulman values strong teaching and scholarship in undergraduate science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Ingram says.

Adams, a 1990 Rose-Hulman mechanical engineering graduate, follows alumni Moench Distinguished Professorship honorees Robert Steinhauser, Keith Hoover and Richard Ditteon.

“I’m honored to continue the alumni legacy of Moench Distinguished Professors,” Adams says. “I had the privilege of being taught by Bob Steinhauser, and appreciated the kindness and professionalism exhibited by Keith Hoover and Rick Ditteon. Herman Moench’s name is revered on campus and I’m humbled to be carrying on his name as I walk through Moench Hall each day.”

Adams has had a significant impact on Rose-Hulman for more than two decades, simultaneously inspiring students while facilitating their education. He is one of the few faculty members to have received the institute’s Dean’s Outstanding Teaching Award (2005) and Trustees’ Outstanding Scholar Award (2019).

Cited as a pioneer in the field of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), Adams’ early work in single- and two-phase heat transfer in microchannels represent some of the earliest scholastic work in the field. He has become a leading MEMS educator, authored one of the leading textbooks for undergraduate technical majors in MEMS, and his scholarly publications about MEMS have been cited almost 800 times – helping to establish Rose-Hulman’s reputation as a leader in MEMS education.

Adams was a member of a multidisciplinary team at Rose-Hulman that developed one of the nation’s first classes and associated laboratory spaces in micro-technology aimed at undergraduate students. He advised the first master’s thesis in the area of MEMS on campus and, whenever possible, involves students in his projects to extend the educational experience outside the classroom. One of his many best paper scholastic awards came from work done in collaboration with undergraduate students and even a group of high school students through a project completed in Rose-Hulman’s Operation Catapult summer exploration program.

More recently, Adams has focused his research on what he calls the “scholarship of generalization,” in which physical systems and processes are purposely modeled using the most fundamental concepts and methods available in order to ascertain physical trends and correlations that often go unnoticed when relying solely the techniques of modern specialized research.

“Dr. Adams embodies the institute’s mission of student-centered education by committed teacher-scholars,” says Richard Onyancha, head of Rose-Hulman’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “He has distinguished himself over the years as a role model for both students and faculty through his sustained excellence in teaching, professional development, and service to the Rose-Hulman community.”

Spreading Rose-Hulman’s international reputation, Adams has served since 2016 as a member of the scientific committee for the International Conference on Heat Transfer and Fluid Flow, been session chair for various technical sessions, and given the keynote address at conferences in Budapest, Hungary, and Lisbon, Portugal. He spent a sabbatical teaching assignment in 2016 teaching the first course about MEMS at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú in Lima, Peru.

Adams firmly believes in the power of serving as an inspiration to his students, both in and out of the classroom. His numerous avocational activities–covering bodybuilding, yoga, writing works of fiction and non-fiction, performing acoustic guitar music–often spark students to expand their own horizons and continue to grow and learn beyond their fields of higher education study.

Herman Moench was a distinguished alumnus, electrical engineering professor and administrator who twice served as Rose-Hulman’s interim president. He was a member of the campus community until his death, at 81 years old, in 1990.

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