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UCL Mechanical Engineering
Faculty of Engineering Sciences

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Surf’s up! Meet Professor Giles Thomas

Professor Giles Thomas, UCL’s Surfer-in-Chief, was appointed as the BMT Chair of Maritime Engineering at UCL in 2014. Before landing back in London, he was catching waves at the Australian Maritime College at the University of Tasmania for nearly 11 years.

Tell us a bit about yourself! What are your interest areas?

I’m a naval architect originally and research-wise I’ve mainly focused on fluid-structure interaction. So if you’ve got any vessel or a ship or a structure – I’m interested in the kind of forces that are imparted onto the structure. For example, how it interacts with the waves and especially large impacts like slamming.

I get excited by different things – I’m not one of those academics who has a very narrow focus – I tend to branch out into different research areas. My current role at UCL is the BMT Chair of Maritime Engineering. BMT sponsor some PhD students who work with me, so one of my main goals is to build up a research team to help solve some of BMT’s long term research questions. So currently we are working on vessel efficiency and optimisation of hull forms, for example.

What are your thoughts about teaching at UCL?

Students are the lifeblood of a university. At UCL we are creating a new ocean engineering minor – I’m very excited about that. I’ve also been really enjoying working with fourth year students on their big group projects. We have a team of students going to the in Switzerland to race a hydrofoil craft that they’ve designed. We also have a team working on an EcoTug for the canals of London. We’re working with a local community group to create a design that has the potential to reinvigorate the use of the canals for freight transport.

When you’re not researching, what do you like doing? I notice there’s a little surfboard your shelf – do you like surfing?

My surfing career is a bit on hold while being in London, sadly. However, I’ve sailed all my life and that’s one thing I love to do. I also cycle to work every day. I live down in Peckham and there’s a velodrome close by – it’s the one they used in the 1948 Olympics. It’s open air and they’ve reinvigorated and refurbished it, so going there once a week for a ride is very fun because there are no traffic lights.

There was a project we did in Tasmania with Greg Webber – he came up with the idea of creating a wave pool that was circular

So it’s like a surf velodrome?

Yeah exactly!

What else do you like to do?

I’ve always been a very keen photographer. I took these in Australia – where I worked in Tasmania we had a research and training vessel and we used to take engineering students out on that. Which was terrific. All of the photos from below can be found on Giles’ Flickr.

Black and white photo of Tasman Island

Black and white photo of Tasman Island (Credit: Giles Thomas)

Sunrise over the Hippolytes from Fortescue Bay

Sunrise over the Hippolytes from Fortescue Bay (Credit: Giles Thomas)

Black browed albatross

Black browed albatross (Credit: Giles Thomas)

Rain at Schouten Island

Rain at Schouten Island (Credit: Giles Thomas)

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