Aaron Thomas Associate Professor, Director of Native American Research Laboratory

Office: Chemistry, 201


Dr. Aaron Thomas is currently the Director of Indigenous Research and STEM Education (IRSE) at the University of Montana, in addition to his role as Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Prior to arriving at the University of Montana in January 2013, Aaron served the University of Idaho as Assistant and Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, and Director of the Idaho Space Grant Consortium and Idaho NASA EPSCoR Programs.

A member of the Navajo Nation, Aaron earned a BS in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University (1996) and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Florida (2001). Dr. Thomas' research topics include Microfluidics and novel separation processes for gases and biological materials. He is a recipient of the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER and PbioECASE Award given to young faculty in science and engineering.

Dr. Thomas is committed to increasing the number of Native American and Alaska Native students with advanced degrees in STEM fields. Accordingly, he has constructed a comprehensive service plan that (in the earliest years) promotes exciting STEM education activities in Montana's reservation middle schools and (later) supports their undergraduate and graduate STEM studies at the University of Montana.

Program Coordinator

Ranalda Tsosie


Ranalda Tsosie is to be admired for academic tenacity and unselfish commitment to her family and the health and safety of her people.  A member of the Dine’ Nation, Ranalda walks a careful balancing act of mother, wife, graduate student, and researcher.  Raising 5 children in Missoula with her husband Stephen, Ranalda budgets time to support their involvement in sports and school activities--all while conducting her lab research, and keeping up with the non-stop pace of her graduate studies.

At the end of Fall Semester 2015, Ranalda completed a Masters in Interdisciplinary Studies and was subsequently admitted to the Individualized Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program.  She commences her doctoral studies Spring Semester 2016. 

A graduate of Dine’ College--a two-year tribal college in Tsaile, Arizona—Ranalda earned an Associate of Science Degree in General Science with Biology and Health Sciences options.  Soon thereafter, she was accepted into The University of New Mexico where she majored in Chemistry and minored in Navajo Language and Linguistics.  Ranalda earned a BS degree and was accepted fall 2013 into the University of Montana’s graduate program in Chemistry.  She hopes to complete an Interdisciplinary Studies PhD in spring 2020.

Her list of awards and recognitions is admirable.  From a cultural perspective, she earned the title of “Miss Northern Navajo”—a title bestowed on Dine’ women who demonstrate cultural knowledge, traditional practice, and language fluency.  On the academic side, Ranalda was a University of New Mexico Diversity Scholar, is currently a UM Sloan Scholar and an EPA STAR fellow, IRSE/Institute on Ecosystems intern, and a UM teaching assistant.

Ranalda’s current research focuses on studying the extent uranium, arsenic and vanadium contamination in her home community on the Navajo Reservation in NE Arizona. At the same time she is developing a SPC based point of use water filter.

Once earning her PhD, Ranalda hopes to return home, secure employment in higher education as a researcher or grant writer, and widen the path for Native students to pursue STEM degrees while experiencing meaningful research.