Rice University logoGeorge R. Brown School of Engineering
Civil and Environmental Engineering


Mason B. Tomson

Professor of Engineering

Research Summary

Fate and Transport of Organic Chemicals and Heavy Metals in Sediments and Ground Water; Environmental Impact of Nano-Particles; Inhibition of Mineral Scale Formation, Introduction to Environmental Chemistry, Environmental Organic Chemistry, Advanced Topics in Water Chemistry. 

Brief Bio

Professor Tomson holds a BS degree in Chemistry and Mathematics and a Ph.D. in Chemistry. He teaches courses and does research on all aspects of organic and inorganic chemical fate and transport, with emphasis on aquatic processes. He has authored or coauthored over 200 articles in high impact journals, including Science (2), Journal of the American Chemical Society, Environmental Science and Technology, and Oil and Gas Journal; he holds four patents, and has authored two books. While at Rice, he has directed research grants totaling over twenty million dollars, chaired the student health committee and co-chaired the undergraduate admissions committee. Recently, he chaired the committee to reform the Civil and Environmental Engineering curriculum and degree offerings and is currently the Curriculum Committee Chair. His research has focused around two themes, fate and transport of organic and inorganic chemicals in the environment and mechanisms of mineral scale formation and control. His research team was one of the first (circa 1978) to prove that ground water could be readily contaminated by organic chemicals from the surface; they then developed and demonstrated the concepts of facilitated (enhanced) transport and more recently of irreversible (resistant) desorption of chemicals from soils and sediments. These concepts have recently been demonstrated to apply to fullerene and activated carbon nanoparticles. Chemicals that prevent mineral formation, called scale inhibitors, are used in nearly all industrial water treatment as well as in nearly every and oil or gas well in the world and Prof. Tomson has developed one of the only fundamental theories of how these chemicals work. He presently directs five research projects, two from NSF on nanotechnology, two from EPA one on heavy metals in sediments and one on nano-particle transport, and a Brine Chemistry Consortium of ten oil and gas production and service companies. Prof. Tomson is also leading an effort to establish a joint program between Rice University and Nankai University, in Tianjin, China, on sustainable environmental development. Prof. Tomson presently serves on the editorial boards of J. Envi. Sci. and Health, SPE Production and Facilities J., on the Science Advisory Committee of EPA’s IPEC at U. of Tulsa, and on the Steering Committee of SPE Oilfield Scale Annual Conference in Scotland. Technology, in collaboration with Prof. Colvin, was published in Science and named top five nanotech breakthroughs of 2006 by Forbes magazine and was featured in New York Times. Prof. Tomson’s graduate students, Heather Shipley (2007), Sujin Yean (2008) and Ping Zhang (2009) have won the Outstanding Young Scientist award at SPE International Oilfield Scale Symposium, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK, for the three years that it has been awarded.