Thomas Key, Ph.D. | Div. 50 Director | Employee Spotlight

January 23, 2023

Dr. Thomas Key Portrait

Thomas Key, Ph.D.

Division Director

Materials and Processes

We are excited to welcome Thomas Key, PhD, as the new Division Director of the Materials and Processes Division. Thomas has been with UES for over ten years. 
Please send Thomas your best wishes congratulations as he leads this Division of UES into its future.

Tell us a little bit about your Division?

Materials and Processes is one of the older Divisions of UES. We’ve maintained interests in this area for decades, and have even grown to spin out other business areas like our Bio/Nano Division. Founded in the 80s,we  continue to cultivate our core competencies in the processing of ceramics, polymers and composites, as well as their advanced characterization. 

Our work covers many cool areas of Science, Modeling, processing, characterization automation, beamline experiments, 3D printed polymers and ceramics, and a revolutionary platform we call the Molecule Maker, that allows us to automate the exploration of processing spaces for polymer synthesis, are all part of our toolkit. Our team’s diverse skill sets allow us to meet the evolving needs of our customers as technology has improved, material systems have matured, and new material systems become the priority.

Now that you've are the Division Director, what are your goals?

It’s an exciting time to begin leading this Division, as UES enters its 50th year. My goal is to continue the success that we have had at anticipating and meeting the needs of our clients. Important to this is helping our newer employees develop the technical and professional connections that facilitate new, innovative research and give free rein to the creativity and the important skills that they bring to our efforts. To do this means leveraging the connections and skills of our senor employees while making sure that our more junior team members have the opportunities they need to further develop as scientists and technologists. We’ll be focusing on leveraging the may specialized skills that each of our team members brings to benefit the division as a whole, in moving AFRL efforts forward. We’ll continue to demonstrate that we are invested in our customers’ success.

Dr. Nina Joshi announces Dr. Thomas Key's Promostion to Division Director.

What achievements are you most proud of?

Personally, I like that I’ve stayed curious in my scientific career. Having the opportunity and bandwidth to learn and apply new skills keeps me engaged and enthusiastic. For example, I hadn’t touched a programming language in many years, yet I relearned programing and expanded my skills as I developed the models that I needed to explain and predict the performance of preceramic polymers during processing. The transition from an experimentalist to a modeler has improved my ability to bridge those two areas of effort..

Leadership is its own art and science. Growing from a Scientist into a Program Manager and a Division Director at UES, I’ve come to appreciate the depth and breadth of support that I had in the process, and finding out that the time and support that I was investing was reflected. As part of my evolution as a leader, I’m finding that I tremendously enjoy seeing people that I have mentored early in their career succeed and eventually move into leadership roles. Young engineers to whom I was a Senior Project Advisor at Purdue are now Team Leads in RX.

On a personal note, my wife and I have three boys and we are richly rewarded by seeing them grow into successful men, each in their own way.

What is the best advice you've ever heard?

“Think about how you treat everyone because you never know when your paths may cross again.” 

Careers are long and communities are interconnected. The student that you involve in a technical discussion, the peer that you made aware of an opportunity or the colleague that you shared your technical expertise with, may one day be the person who puts in the extra time to get you the data that you need before a deadline, the person who recommends you for a position, or the team lead that then thinks of you when putting together a project. I’ve seen this outlook in practice within Division 50. It is expressed in collaborative nature of the teams and the generosity of individuals with their time.

Drs. Joshi and Key at a Wingman Event

Learn more about our work in this area at Materials and Processes.


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