James Thomson

Special Advisor to the President for Regional Development

Division of Research
FDH 313
Mail Code


At UNLV, Dr. Jim Thomson serves as special advisor to the president for regional development. He is the former CEO of the RAND Corp., a nonprofit, nonpartisan institution that helps improve policy and decisions through research and analysis, which he led as CEO from 1989 to November 2011. With annual revenues of over $250 million and a staff of more than 1,600 from more than 50 countries, and a Ph.D.-level graduate school, RAND’s research programs address a range of domestic, international, and national security issues. RAND’s core competencies include health care services, supply chains, energy and environment, transportation and infrastructure, education, personnel management, demography, defense, and international security.

Thomson has had a varied career. In addition to his leadership at RAND, he was previously an experimental nuclear physicist and published numerous scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals; he served as a U.S. government official dealing with defense and arms control matters, serving both in the Defense Department and at the White House; and he focused on policy research covering a range of strategic issues. He became RAND’s fourth president in 1989.

He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, New York; the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London; and the board of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. He is a director of AK Steel Corp. and Praedicat, Inc.

Thomson holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of New Hampshire and master’s and doctoral degrees in physics from Purdue University. He has received honorary doctorates from Purdue and Pepperdine Universities, the University of New Hampshire, and the Pardee RAND Graduate School.