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Learning Never Ends for High-Achieving Thomas Foulkes

August 15, 2014

Thomas Foulkes

Focused Student: Senior electrical engineering student Thomas Foulkes prepares to work on a research project in one of the Department of Physics and Optical Engineering’s laboratories. (Photo by Shawn Spence)

Thomas Foulkes likes exploring the limits of engineering and science, while expanding his educational horizons in the process.

The senior electrical engineering student has worked with Physics and Optical Engineering Professor Maarij Syed, PhD, and Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Mark Herniter, PhD, to create a unique pulsed Faraday rotation setup with a pulsed circuit capable of generating a 0.8 Tesla magnetic field. This pulsed circuit has the capacity to create pulse magnetic fields of varying peak height, rise time, and total pulse duration.

By passing light through a gas, liquid, or solid sample in a magnetic field, Faraday rotation (FR) experiments reveal a linear relationship between the rotation of the electric field vector of polarized light and the product of the magnitude of the corresponding magnetic field and of the sample’s length. Overall, FR probes the fundamental magnetic properties of materials.

This work has been featured at this summer’s TechConnect 2014 World Innovation Conference, the 2014 Materials Research Society’s spring meeting and exhibit, and the 2013 IEEE International Symposium on Circuits and Systems. It has also helped foster international collaborations with universities on three continents. Insight from analyzing magnetic nanoparticles from the University of Paris will be used to improve brain tumor imaging techniques.

“I have been fortunate to be able to immediately reinforce what I’m learning in the classroom into the laboratory in interesting research activities,” says Foulkes, whose projects have been supported by the Independent Project/Research Opportunities Program. “I like exploring the real-world application of engineering and science concepts.”

Regarding Foulkes’ research achievements, Syed says: “I am continually impressed with Thomas’ discipline, hard work, and sharp intellect—qualities that do not come together often. Students like him make Rose-Hulman a very special place, and teaching a truly rewarding pursuit.”

The Terre Haute, Indiana native has always set his personal goals high. He achieved the highest rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America, was twice a finalist in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, was one of three American high school students participating in the China Adolescents Science and Technology Invention Contest, and was a high school valedictorian.

At Rose-Hulman, Foulkes has earned numerous academic honors, and has made 16 technical presentations at regional and national science conferences. He also was twice the grand prize winner in a campus essay-writing contest, organized student teams to assemble bicycles for underprivileged youths, and has leadership roles in several student organizations.

His summers have been filled with internships in systems engineering analysis and design at Delphi Safety and Electronics, and a patent examiner for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, D.C.

“Rose-Hulman has provided me with wonderful opportunities and the skillset to tackle real-world problems. The unique campus culture fosters a place for engineers to create innovative ideas and to share what they’re learning,” Foulkes says. “Rose-Hulman has a campus atmosphere where you never stop learning. The professors help students explore their horizons and realize how they can contribute to the engineering profession. It’s an atmosphere that gets the best out of each student.”