Dr. Gary L. Thompson is an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at Rowan University. The BioElectroMechanical Engineering Laboratory conducts multiple interdisciplinary research studies. The broad array of research interests and expertise encompasses the fields of bioelectrics, biomaterials, cell biology, nanotechnology, and interfacial and surface characterization.

  • Ph.D. in Bioengineering from Clemson University in 2011
  • B.S. in Chemical Engineering from University of South Carolina in 2004


Dr. Thompson most recently was an Oak Ridge Institute for Science & Education postdoctoral research associate at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in the Optical Radiation Branch located at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Prior to that, he was a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow and Repperger Research Intern in the Radiofrequency Bioeffects Branch in AFRL. His research focuses on the mechanobiology of biomembrane and cellular responses to directed energy exposure, including nanosecond pulsed electric fields and infrared pulses. 

Dr. Thompson earned his Ph.D. in Bioengineering at Clemson University, where he implemented piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM) during User Visits to Oak Ridge National Laboratory and atomic force microscopy (AFM) in liquid to study the nanoscale electromechanical properties of proteins, biomembranes and live cells. His undergraduate honor's thesis in Chemical Engineering at the University of South Carolina determined the compatibility of crystalline medical-grade polymers with liquid carbon dioxide batch processing, for testing the feasibility of dense phase carbon dioxide for sterilization of medical devices. He participated in two National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF REU's), at Osaka University in Japan during Fall 2003 and at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology during Summer 2002. Respectively, these research experiences concerned metal-affinity immobilized liposome chromatography for protein separations and solvent tolerance of bacteria for enhanced recovery of products during bioprocessing.
    • Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering, Rowan University, starting 2017
    • ORISE Postdoctoral Research Associate, Air Force Research Laboratory, 2013-2016
    • NRC Postdoctoral Research Associate, Air Force Research Laboratory, 2011-2013
    • Repperger Research Intern, Air Force Research Laboratory, Summer 2010
    • Research Assistant, University of South Carolina, 2004-2005
    • NSF REU, Osaka University (Japan), Fall 2003
    • NSF REU, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, Summer 2002

Research and Scholarly Interests

Dr. Thompson's scholarly interests encompass three major research thrusts. The first deals with elucidation of bioeffects of nanosecond pulsed electric fields (nsPEF) and other directed energy stimuli for translation to biomedical applications, with secondary objectives including cancer, pain and wound healing therapies. The second thrust is development of multimodal scanning probe microscopy techniques for improved characterization of materials, especially soft biological matter. Education research is the third thrust.
    • Bioeffects of High Intensity Electric Pulses
      • With continued growth of the global population, especially in the developing world, and the rise of medical costs in the United States, there is a pressing call for additional medical treatment options to eradicate cancer, reduce pain and heal wounds. A continued surge of research effort in bioelectrics is anticipated to support this need. Directed energy, such as high intensity electric pulses, impinges upon the dielectric membrane interfaces of cells, and permeabilization can result from thermal phase transition of lipids or by nanoporation. In addition, changes in capacitance or membrane voltage can alter the permeability state of membrane-spanning channels, and ultimately, breakdown of membrane integrity occurs above a threshold exposure regime. Therapeutically, permeabilization of biomembranes by high intensity electric pulses can lead to cancer, pain and wound healing treatments. The objectives of this research are to determine fundamental physical and physiological mechanisms underlying nsPEF bioeffects and to translate nsPEF into reliable medical tools.
    • Multimodal Scanning Probe Microscopy
      • To better understand and engineer materials, the complex electrical, mechanical, optical and chemical properties must be measured and mapped at the nanoscale and subsequently linked to mesoscale properties. Simultaneous extraction of multiple physical properties, such as elasticity, topography and conductivity is possible using multimodal and combinatorial scanning probe microscopy (SPM) techniques. Yet, the existing multimodal SPM techniques are often fraught with significant operational drawbacks and misinterpretations of complex data sets. The overall goal of the proposed projects involving SPM are to establish a fast and versatile multimodal technique that eliminates convolution of beam deflection-derived amplitude and phase information from bending motions of cantilevers, especially for use with soft materials.
    • Education Research
      • Ultimately, education research quantitatively informs the teaching community’s preparation of tomorrow’s engineers and scientists. Education research projects can endure over many semesters while incorporating incremental results from smaller data sets, experiential labs, and outreach activities. Assessment of cognitive development of students during design or lab courses is envisioned, to ascertain which challenges, set at different levels and rates within such courses, best accelerate growth.

Selected Publications
  1. Thompson GL, Kuipers M, Ibey BL. Particle tracking of lysosome migration in Chinese hamster ovary cells in response to exposure to 600 nanosecond pulsed electric fields. In preparation.
  2. Thompson GL, Kuipers M, Ibey BL. Mechanisms of nuclear envelope permeabilization induced by 600 nanosecond pulsed electric field exposure. In preparation.
  3. Thompson GL, Roth CC, Kuipers MA, Tolstykh GP, Beier HT, Ibey BL. Permeabilization of the nuclear envelope following nanosecond pulsed electric field exposure. Biochem Biophys Res Commun, 2016, 470:35; DOI: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2015.12.092.
  4. Thompson GL, Dalzell D, Roth CC, Kuipers M, Bernhard JA, Payne JA, Ibey BL. Calcium influx affects intracellular transport and membrane repair following nanosecond pulsed electric field exposure. J Biomed Opt, 2014, 19:055005.
  5. Thompson GL, Roth CC, Tolstykh G, Kuipers M, Ibey BL. Disruption of the actin cytoskeleton contributes to susceptibility of cells to nanosecond pulsed electric fields. Bioelectromagnetics, 2014, 35:262; DOI: 10.1002/bem.21845.
  6. Nagami H, Umakoshi H, Kitaura T, Thompson GL, Shimanouchi T, Kuboi R. Development of metal affinity-immobilized liposome chromatography and its basic characteristics. Biochem Eng J, 2014, 84:66.
  7. Tolstykh GP, Beier HT, Roth CC, Thompson GL, Payne JA, Kuipers MA, Ibey BL. Activation of intracellular phosphoinositide signaling after a single 600ns electric pulse. Bioelectrochemistry, 2013, 94:23.
  8. Thompson GL, Reukov VV, Nikiforov MP, Jesse S, Kalinin SV, Vertegel AA. Electromechanical and elastic probing of bacteria in cell culture media. Nanotechnology, 2012, 23:245705.
  9. Nikiforov MP, Thompson GL, Reukov VV, Jesse S, Guo S, Rodriguez BJ, Seal K, Vertegel AA, Kalinin SV. Double layer mediated electromechanical response of amyloid fibrils in liquid environment. ACS Nano, 2010, 4:689-98.
  10. Jimenez A, Thompson GL, Matthews MA, Davis TA, Crocker K, Lyons JS, Trapotsis A. Compatibility of medical-grade polymers with dense CO2. J Supercrit Fluid. 2007 Oct;42(3 SI):366-72.

Awards and Honors
  • Clemson Bioengineering Page Morton Hunter Graduate Researcher Award, 2011