Tom is Professor of Bacteriology and Food Safety. He trained initially as a meat technologist but for the last 40 years has been involved in research into zoonotic infections, principally those caused by Salmonella and Campylobacter spp. He spent 20 years in the Public Health Laboratory Service, part of the NHS, and in 2001 moved to Bristol University, followed by Liverpool University 2010-2014. Tom did much of the research on Salmonella and eggs in the 1980s and 90s and he advised the British Egg Industry to vaccinate hens against Salmonella in 1997, a major public health intervention.
His current main research focus is on Campylobacter in broiler chickens, how chickens interact with production environments and the consequences of such interactions on host-pathogen relationships. A key investigation is why these bacteria, once thought of as harmless commensals in chickens now adversely affect bird health, welfare and performance. Much of his past work on these bacteria and Salmonella was focused on survival in foods and the environment. His future research is planned to be more human-patient focused, examining, for example, the risk factors for sepsis in elderly people. He is a past member of the UK Advisory Committee for Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF), and a member of two ACMSF working groups. One is on changing advice to UK consumers with regard to the safety risks posed by Salmonella in eggs. The other focuses on Campylobacter, research and knowledge gaps for the control of this major zoonotic pathogen.
Tom has published around 300 papers and in 1989 was awarded the W.H. Pierce Memorial Prize from the Society for Applied Microbiology for outstanding contribution to Microbiology. He also received the Colworth Lecture Prize awarded by the Society of General Microbiology for outstanding contribution to the study of food microbiology in 2002 and in 2006 he was awarded the Gordon Memorial Lecture Prize by the World Poultry Science Association for outstanding contribution to poultry research.