Gordon A. Thomas, a professor in the department of physics, is engaged in research in applied biophysics and biomedical engineering. He has patented and built several devices at NJIT.
Most recently Thomas and NJIT Research Professor Reginald Farrow, also in the department of physics, along with NJIT alumnus Sheng Liu, formerly a doctoral student of both researchers and now an engineer at a biotech company, were awarded a patent earlier in 2012 for the NJIT SmartShunt™, a unique device to help patients with brain injuries. “No Clog Shunt Using a Compact Fluid Drag Path” (US Patent Number 8,088,091), discloses a device that enables the non-invasive wireless monitoring of both the extremely slow flow of cerebrospinal fluid as well as tiny changes in pressure in a shunt that drains fluid out of the brain. Ordinary shunts are commonly used by patients suffering from severe excess pressure in the brain due to hydrocephalus or brain injury.
A serious problem with shunts is that they may malfunction or become obstructed. The symptoms include a severe headache, but can be confusing, particularly when patients are small children, said Thomas. Such uncertainty can lead to the performance of unnecessary and unpleasant surgical procedures or, alternatively, to the postponement of what could be life-saving medical interventions. The technology will enable patients and physicians to determine whether cerebrospinal fluid flow is in fact, impaired. The device will also allow those involved to determine better what medical procedures should be performed.
The NJIT SmartShunt™ includes a set of components that are geared toward reducing the potential for shunt obstruction. It is designed to have a lifetime of more than a decade because it needs no internal power. The SmartShunt™ will also be a valuable new tool for research into what extent diet, motion and medication of patients can improve the pressure and flow of the fluid in the brain. The New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology and more recently the National Institutes of Health provided support for the project.
In collaboration with UMDNJ, to help prevent blindness, Thomas developed a tonometer, which is now licensed to the Incubation Factory Llc. for manufacturing. Thomas has also been developing a new sensor to help prevent injuries to warfighters for the Army Research and Development Engineering Center, at Picatinny Arsenal, Dover.
Thomas is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and was elected to chair the Forum on Industrial and Applied Physics (FIAP), the largest section of the APS, to chair the Nominating Committee of FIAP, and to serve on the Keithley Prize Committee of the APS. He has published over 150 papers on basic physics, applied physics and biophysics and holds or has pending over 15 patents. He has received an Edison Award for a patent on flexible sensors and the 2011 Innovator Award from the NJ Inventors’ Hall of Fame for the body of his inventions and research.
Thomas has served NJIT academically as a teacher and in various committees that work to help students, and has guided five students through their doctoral work. In addition, he has trained high school students and undergraduates from New Jersey in his lab at NJIT both during the summer and the academic year. He has worked to bring a biophysics degree program to NJIT and has developed new courses in biophysics.
Thomas received his PhD in physics from the University of Rochester and has carried out research at Bell Labs, Harvard, MIT and the University of Tokyo.
Topics: applied biophysics, biophysics, biomedical engineering, smart shunt, nj inventors hall of fame, edison award, tonometer
Last update: October 24, 2012