Vale Associate Professor Thomas Engells

Chief Engells

Thomas Engells, Adjunct Associate Professor and the Chief of Police at the University of Texas Medical Branch since 2010, died unexpectedly on Sunday January 21st 2018 at age 59. Chief Engells was Adjunct Associate Professor at SPHCM, UNSW, and worked on both teaching and research with UNSW academics. He last visited UNSW in November 2017 to teach in our course on Bioterrorism and Health Intelligence, where he delivered lectures on Insider Threat in laboratories and on his experience with the disaster response during Hurricane Harvey in his home town of Houston in 2017. He also gave up his time to record lectures for our online students. He also taught in a PluS Alliance workshop on biosecurity in Arlington, Virginia, in December 2017 with academics from UNSW and ASU. He was an affiliate of a NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence, ISER, and helped run a pandemic hypothetical in Canberra in May 2016 for Australian stakeholders from government and non-government agencies. In a testament to his unique, insightful and scholarly approach to biosecurity, he has been publishing in the medical literature since 2008, including several publications in the last 3 years with colleagues at UNSW.


Chief Engells was a law enforcement officer for the University of Texas System for more than 34 years and had twice been named the system’s police chief of the year, in 2011 and 2014. He was responsible for biosecurity at The National Laboratory in Galveston, Texas, a Biosafety Level 4 laboratory that conducts research on highly infectious diseases, such as Ebola.  His experience with the Galveston National Laboratory together with his law enforcement and military background gave him a unique insight into biosecurity. His expertise was sought widely on expert committees within the US and overseas, and he was a leader in biosecurity with true vision and fortitude. We have been privileged at UNSW to benefit in both teaching and research from his expertise, and to get to know him as a colleague and friend.


Chief Engells was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. For 20 years he served as assessor and team leader for the national Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Chief Engells grew up in Austin, Texas and graduated from the University of Texas in 1979. He received a master’s degree in criminal justice from Sam Houston State University and a master’s in homeland security and defense from the U.S. Naval postgraduate school in 2005.  He is survived by his wife Peggy and daughter Laura. Our thoughts are with them.