Professor Colin Thomas MA(Cantab), PhD, CEng, FIChemE, CSci

School of Chemical Engineering
Emeritus Professor of Biochemical Engineering

Contact details

School of Chemical Engineering
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Colin Thomas is an Emeritus Professor, having retired in December 2013. He has published over 100 research papers in scientific journals as well as reviews and books chapters in the fields of fermentation, the effects of shear on biological materials and biomechanics.


  • Chartered Scientist, 2006-2013
  • Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, elected 1997
  • PhD in Biochemical Engineering, UCL, 1978
  • MA(Cantab), 1976


Professor Colin Thomas moved to the University of Birmingham from University College London in 1989. Previously, he had worked in the chemical industry for six years.

He was the Head of Chemical Engineering at Birmingham in 2001 to 2002, Deputy Dean of Physical Sciences and Engineering from 2002 to 2005, Director of Teaching in Engineering from 2005 to 2008, and Director of Quality Assurance and Enhancement in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences from 2008 to 2011. He retired in December 2013.

In 2005 Colin was awarded the Donald Medal of the Institution of Chemical Engineers for services to biochemical engineering.

Colin developed two new analytical techniques that have underpinned most of his research. The first was the application of image analysis to studies of the morphology of filamentous fungi growing in submerged cultures. The second (with Professor Zhibing Zhang) was a micromanipulation technique with associated mathematical modelling for measuring the mechanical properties of biological cells.



Measurement of the mechanical properties of biological materials, using micromanipulation-based compression testing and associated modelling. Earlier work concerned the novel application of image analysis to the study of filamentous fermentations.


  • Intrinsic material properties of plant and yeast cell walls
  • High Strain Rate Compression Tester: development of equipment for rapid compression of microscopic particles, with high-speed imaging. Intended to complement mathematical modelling of the compression process for the identification of particle material properties
  • Microencapsulation

Other activities


  • Member of QAA Benchmarking Group for Engineering, 1999

Research Councils

  • Peer Review College, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, 2010 –
  • Member of the Life Sciences College of EPSRC, 1999 – 2005
  • Chair, Physics Engineering Initiative Panel, 2003
  • Member of the Chemical Engineering College of EPSRC, 1998 – 1999
  • Member of Network Group, Engineering and Biological Systems Directorate, BBSRC, 1997 – 1998
  • Committee Member, Engineering and Physical Sciences Committee, BBSRC, 1996 – 1997
  • Scientific Adviser and Member (1996), Management Committee, Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Directorate, BBSRC, 1994 – 1997

Institution of Chemical Engineers

  •  Lead Accreditation Assessor, University of Cambridge, 2010
  • Accreditation Assessor, University of Manchester, 2008
  • Accreditation Assessor, University of Cambridge, 2005
  • Membership Committee, 1998 – 2000, 2004 – 2008
  • Committee 1989 – 1995 and 2006 – , and Chairman 1991 – 1992, Biochemical

Engineering Subject Group

  • Research Committee, 1992 – 1998 
  •  Council, 1994 – 1997

Science Council

  • Elected Licensed Body Representative on the Science Council Registration Authority, 2004 – 2007
  • Member Interim Registration Authority of the Science Council, 2004


  • Member of Strategic Development Group, Dame Elizabeth Cadbury Technology College, Birmingham, 2000 – 2010; Chair 2006 – 2010


Mercadé-Prieto, R., Colin R. Thomas, C.R. and Zhang, Z. (2013), Mechanical double layer model for Saccharomyces cerevisiae cell wall, European Biophys. J. 42:613-620

Thomas, C.R. and Geer, D. (2011), Effects of shear on proteins in solution, Biotechnol. Lett. 33:443-456

Nguyen, B.V., Wang, Q.G., Kuiper, N.J., El Haj, A.J., Thomas, C.R. and Zhang, Z.B. (2010), Biomechanical properties of single chondrocytes and chondrons determined by micromanipulation and finite-element modelling, J. R. Soc. Interface 7: 1723-1733

Wang, Q.G., Nguyen, B., Thomas, C.R., Zhang, Z.B., El Haj, A.J. and Kuiper, N.J. (2010), Molecular profiling of single cells in response to mechanical force: comparison of chondrocytes, chondrons and encapsulated chondrocytes, Biomaterials 31: 1619-1625.

Stenson, J.D., Thomas, C.R. and Hartley, P. (2009), Modelling the mechanical properties of yeast cells, Chem. Eng. Sci. 64:1892- 1903

Wang, C., Wang, L., McQueen-Mason, S.J., J Pritchard, J. and Thomas, C.R. (2008), pH and expansin action on single suspension-cultured tomato ( Lycopersicon esculentum ) cells, J. Plant Res. 121: 527-534.

Zhang, Z., Stenson, J.D. and Thomas, C.R. (2009), “Micromanipulation in mechanical characterisation of single particles”. In Li, J. (ed.) Characterization of flow, particles and interfaces. Advances in Chemical Engineering 37, pp 29-85.

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