Technology Development Manager at BAE Systems, Inc.; APS Committee on Careers & Professional Development
Matthew Thompson is a senior Technology Development Manager in the advanced R&D division of BAE Systems, Inc. He is also Chair of the American Physical Society’s (APS) Committee on Careers and Professional Development and Vice-Chair of the APS Forum on Industrial and Applied Physics. He has personally mentored dozens of STEM students on professional issues, made career-oriented speaking appearances at places like Stanford University, co-founded a major mentoring program called IMPact and written about career issues for physical scientists for over five years.
Dr. Thompson completed a bachelor’s degree with honors in physics from Stanford University, and both a MS and PhD in experimental plasma physics from the University of California, Los Angeles. After graduating, his difficult transition off the academic career path to first Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and then private industry inspired him to help others on similar journeys. Dr. Thompson transitioned to private industry twelve years ago with his first Senior Scientist position at Tri Alpha Energy working on energy conversion and magnetic sensor technologies. He rose through the ranks to become Director of Physics at TAE Technologies, Inc. a diversified company working on nuclear fusion, related power handling and particle accelerator technologies, and new medical devices for cancer treatment. He led the 50 scientists and technical personnel of TAE’s Physics Division in their work on experimental operations, pulsed power systems, high-power neutral beams, plasma diagnostics, data acquisition, analysis, and data science. Today, he lives in Maryland with his wife and two children and works on the developing sensors and embedded data processing systems for advanced aerospace applications at BAE Systems.
Mentoring Future Leaders
All of us remember lectures, problem sets, and lab classes as core elements of our technical education. We were given new information and then used it in practice to master it. Leadership and management training require a similar blend of information delivery and practice. While the lecture paradigm works well for leadership information delivery, the problem set and lab course approach do not map to learning how to deal with people. In my experience, mentoring a new leader through real projects coordinating diverse groups of people working toward concrete goals is one of the best ways to build leadership proficiency. I will frame this viewpoint in the context of my work in private industry management, professional society leadership, and mentoring.