• Computational neuroscience (plasticity)
  • Electric vehicle charging and grid constraints
  • Optimal network design
  • Underground mine access design
  • Wireless sensor networks



  • Professor Doreen Thomas is the Head of Department of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Melbourne. Prof Thomas is also the Associate Dean (Research) for the Melbourne School of Engineering.

    Research interests
    The Steiner problem is to find the shortest network linking a given set of terminals. The terminals may be in the plane or 3-space and the edges of the network may be constrained. For example, the edges of the network may be restricted to lying in a rectangular grid as in a VLSI chip or the edges of the network might be tunnels linking ore-deposits in a mine and so be gradient-constrained by haulage factors. Thus the Steiner problem has many applications.

    The project on the Optimal Network Design is joint work with Prof J. Rubinstein, Department of Mathematics, Dr J. Weng, Dr P. Grossman, and Dr M. Brazil, Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering.  An example of current research is Underground Mine Access Design and Optimisation 

    In November 2012  Professor Thomas was elected as a Fellow to Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE).  Professor Thomas has an outstanding international reputation for fundamental mathematical research in network optimisation. The software encapsulating her work is now used by the largest mining companies in the word to reduce underground mine development and haulage costs. Professor Thomas has a national teaching award for her contribution to engineering education and mentorship and is a passionate ambassador for women in science and engineering.   


Member of

  • IEEE - Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. Senior Member 2006 -
  • The Australian Mathematical Society. Member 2000 -


Selected publications


Investigator on

Additional Grant Information

  • 2012: D. Thomas, 'Survivable networks: Geometric techniques for the optimal design of fault-tolerant communication networks', Global Engagement Strategic Mobility Grants Scheme, University of Melbourne with London School of Economics and Political Science and Copenhagen University, $3K

    2004: D. Thomas and M. Brazil, Coursework Design and Development Program, Multimedia Student Education Support Tools in Engineering Analysis, $38,492
    2001-2008: Tewkesbury Fellowship funding, 40K



Education and training

  • PhD, University of Oxford 1977
  • MSc, University of Oxford 1974
  • BSc (Hons), University of Witwatersrand 1971
  • BSc, University of Cape Town 1970

Awards and honors

  • Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, 2012
  • Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning, Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC), 2011
  • 2011 Patricia Grimshaw Award for mentoring excellence, The University of Melbourne, 2011
  • Fellow of the Institution of Engineers of Australia, 2007
  • Best Paper Award, 2007 International Conference of Wireless Networks (ICWN'07), The International Association of Engineers (IAEng), 2007
  • Universitas 21 Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching, The University of Melbourne, 2003
  • Teaching Excellence Award, Faculty of Engineering, University of Melbourne, 1998
  • Una Goodwin Research Scholarship, Oxford University, St Anne's College, 1976



Available for supervision

  • N

Supervision Statement

  • My expertise is in mathematical network optimisation. I offer RHD projects in the following areas:

    1. underground mine design
    2. sensor network deployment
    3. impact of electric vehicles on the grid