John Thomas

Research Engineer / Scientist


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139

(617) 452-3044

Dr. John Thomas is on the research staff in the department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT. He holds a Ph.D. from MIT in the area of systems engineering, and his bachelor's and master's degrees are in computer engineering. John's work involves creating structured processes for analyzing cyber-physical systems, especially systems that may behave in unanticipated, unsafe, or otherwise undesirable ways through complex interactions with each other and their environment. By using control theory and systems theory, more efficient and effective design and analysis processes can be created to prevent flaws that lead to unexpected and undesirable behaviors when integrated with other systems. More recently he has been applying these techniques to automated systems that are heavily dependent on human-computer interactions to achieve safety and security goals. These automated systems may not only be subject to human error--they may inadvertently induce human error through mode confusion, clumsy automation, and other mechanisms that can be difficult to anticipate.

John's work also includes defining a formal structure underlying a systems-theoretic process that can be used to help ensure potentially hazardous or undesirable software behaviors are systematically identified and controlled. He has also developed algorithms to automatically generate formal executable and model-based requirements for software components as well as methods to detect flaws in an existing software specification. The same process can be applied to address security and functional goals of the system, thereby permitting the automated detection of conflicts between these and other goals during early development processes.

Academic Degrees

B.S. Computer Engineering, University of Massachusetts
M.S. Computer Engineering, University of Massachusetts
Ph.D. Engineering Systems, MIT

Positions Held at MIT

Research Scientist/Engineer, 2014-present
Postdoctoral Associate, 2013

Positions Held outside MIT

Engineer, Lincoln Laboratory
Engineer, Raytheon Surveillance and Sensors Center
Researcher, US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL)

Specialization and Research Interests

Systems Engineering, Transportation Engineering, Requirements Development and Analysis, Cybersecurity, Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS), Designing safety-critical systems, Software Engineering, Automated and Autonomous systems, Human-Computer Interaction

Teaching Interests

Systems Engineering
Requirements Engineering
User Interface Design
Human-Centered Software Engineering
Automation and Control Systems
Designing Cyber-Physical Systems
System and Software Security
Designing Safety-Critical Systems
Software Concepts
Control Theory
Signal Processing

Lab/Research Group Affiliation: 
System Engineering Research Laboratory
Safety and Security Research Lab
Software Engineering Research Lab
Complex Systems Research Lab