Dr. Thomas Sebastian is a senior staff member in the Structural and Thermal-Fluids Engineering Group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. His expertise is in aerospace engineering and rapid prototyping and testing of complex systems. Currently, he is leading work on advanced concepts across a wide range of domains.
Since joining MIT Lincoln Laboratory in 2012, Sebastian has served as the unit engineer, fluid mechanics and thermal engineering subject-matter expert, and chief engineer on a wide array of prototype vehicles and programs. He developed novel unmanned aerial vehicle airframes and propulsion systems for edge-case missions and applications, leading to several patents. He also assembled and led the Lincoln Laboratory and MIT campus team responsible for demonstrating the world's first flight of an ion-propelled fixed-wing aircraft.
From 2019 to 2021, Sebastian was deployed to the Laboratory's Kwajalein Field Site. He played a key role in innovative technology development spanning a range of space operations and testing efforts, including extremely high-altitude and low-orbit concepts and orbital debris assessment. He also contributed to the Kwajalein Atoll Sustainability Laboratory, with the goal of developing a climate change adaptation testbed and maturing zero-carbon transportation options.
Sebastian's technical accomplishments have been recognized with the Laboratory's Best Invention Award (2017) and Early Career Technical Achievement Award (2019). Beyond his technical work, he is dedicated to making a broader impact through STEM outreach. He has led several courses and activities for K–12 students and educators on topics including 3D printing, aerodynamics, climate change, space travel, machine learning, self-driving cars, and autonomous drone racing.
Sebastian received his bachelor's and master's degrees in aerospace engineering from North Carolina State University and his doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Prior to joining the Laboratory, Sebastian worked at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA's Langley Research Center, the UMass Renewable Energy Research Laboratory, and an aerospace startup.