Alec Thomas Portrait

Alec Thomas



6107 ERB


Professor Thomas works in experimental and theoretical plasma physics. His research is focused on the physics and applications of high power laser interactions with plasma. When heated by lasers, highly non-equilibrium states of matter arise, where complex behavior such as collective wave-particle interactions is prevalent and only full kinetic descriptions of the particle distribution are valid. Light and plasma couple together strongly, leading to instabilities and nonlinear wave formation. At the highest intensities, quantum electrodynamic effects become important in determining the plasma dynamics. Applications of intense laser driven plasma include advanced, miniature particle accelerators, next generation photon sources and inertial fusion energy. Professor Thomas is part of the Center for Ultrafast Optical Science High Field Science group, using the HERCULES and Lambda-cubed very high power laser systems for investigating the physics of relativistic plasma.


  • Imperial College London
    Diploma of Imperial College ’07
    PhD Plasma Physics ’07
    MSci (Honors) Physics (First Class) ’02

Research Interests

  • Plasma wakefield accelerators: Particle trapping and phasespace dynamics, synchrotron-like x-ray generation from betatron oscillations in plasma cavities, charged particle beam / x-ray imaging and x-ray spectroscopy applications.
  • Plasma in strong electromagnetic fields: Quantum radiation reaction, e+e- pair generation, spin dynamics.
  • Numerical solutions of the Vlasov / Vlasov-Boltzmann equation: Particle-in-cell methods, semi-Lagrangian Vlasov, spectral/exponential methods. Multiphysics, including radiation, ionization, collisions etc. 
  • Magnetized high energy density plasma: Magnetic field generation and transport in relativistic and semi-collisional plasma.  

Research areas:

Selected Publications

(10 of 212)

  • Y. Ma, D. Seipt, A. E. Hussein, S. Hakimi, N. F. Beier, S. B. Hansen, J. Hinojosa, A. Maksimchuk, J. Nees, K. Krushelnick, A. G. R. Thomas, and F. Dollar, Polarization-Dependent Self-Injection by Above Threshold Ionization Heating in a Laser Wakefield Accelerator, Phys. Rev. Lett. 124 (2020).
  • D. Seipt, D. Del Sorbo, C. P. Ridgers, and Alec G. R. Thomas, Ultrafast polarization of an electron beam in an intense bichromatic laser field, Phys. Rev. A 100 (2019).
  • J. M. Cole, K. T. Behm T., E. Gerstmayr, T. G. Blackburn, J. C. Wood, C. D. Baird, M. J. Duff, C. Harvey, A. Ilderton, A. S. Joglekar, K. Krushelnick, S. Kuschel, M. Marklund, P. McKenna, C. D. Murphy, K. Poder, C. P. Ridgers, G. M. Samarin, G. Sarri, D. R. Symes, A. G. R. Thomas, J. Warwick, M. Zepf, Z. Najmudin, and S. P. D. Mangles, Experimental Evidence of Radiation Reaction in the Collision of a High-Intensity Laser Pulse with a Laser-Wakefield Accelerated Electron Beam, Phys. Rev. X 8, 011020 (2018).
  • T. Z. Zhao, K. T. Behm, C. F. Dong, X. Davoine, S. Y. Kalmykov, V. Petrov, V. Chvykov, P. G. Cummings, B. Hou, A. Maksimchuk, J. A. Nees, V. Yanovsky, A. G. R. Thomas, and K. Krushelnick, High-Flux Femtosecond X-Ray Emission from Controlled Generation of Annular Electron Beams in a Laser Wakefield Accelerator, Phys. Rev. Lett. 117, 094801 (2016).
  • P. Zhang, C. P. Ridgers, and A. G. R. Thomas, The effect of nonlinear quantum electrody- namics on relativistic transparency and laser absorption in ultra-relativistic plasmas, New J. Phys. 17, 043051 (2015).
  • Z.-H. He, B. Hou, V. Lebailly, J. A. Nees, K. Krushelnick, and A. G. R. Thomas, Coherent control of plasma dynamics, Nat. Comms. 6, 7156 (2015).
  • Z. H. He, J. A. Nees, B. Hou, K. Krushelnick, and A. G. R. Thomas, Ionization-Induced Self- Compression of Tightly Focused Femtosecond Laser Pulses, Physical Review Letters 113 (2014).
  • A. S. Joglekar, A. G. R. Thomas, W. Fox, and A. Bhattacharjee, Magnetic Reconnection in Plasma under Inertial Confinement Fusion Conditions Driven by Heat Flux Effects in Ohm’s Law, Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 105004 (2014).
  • A. G. R. Thomas, C. P. Ridgers, S. S. Bulanov, B. J. Griffin, and S. P. D. Mangles, Strong Radiation-Damping Effects in a Gamma-Ray Source Generated by the Interaction of a High-Intensity Laser with a Wakefield-Accelerated Electron Beam, Phys. Rev. X 2, 041004 (2012).
  • A. G. R. Thomas, M. Tzoufras, A. P. L. Robinson, R. J. Kingham, C. P. Ridgers, M. Sherlock, and A. R. Bell, A review of Vlasov-Fokker-Planck numerical modeling of inertial confinement fusion plasma, J. Comput. Phys. 231, 1051 (2012).

Honors and Awards

  • Fellow of the American Physical Society, 2008
  • Young Investigator Program Air Force Office of Scientific Research, 2012
  • Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) National Science Foundation, 2011
  • PhD Research Award European Physical Society, Plasma Physics Division, 2007
  • Imperial College Entrepreneurs’ Challenge 2002