Tom became interested in conservation during his chemistry studies at Oxford University, and while obtaining his master's degree. In 1992 Tom became a Leverhulme research fellow in conservation science at the Tate Gallery, concurrent with his PhD studies at Birkbeck College. His thesis focused on the characterization of acrylic and other twentieth-century painting materials. Four years later, he took a regular position at Tate, ultimately becoming their senior conservation scientist.
Tom came to the Getty Conservation Institute to head up a new section on contemporary art research, which will continue work on modern paints while exploring expansion into other areas. As part of that exploration, he is planning a meeting of international experts to consider current priorities in the conservation of contemporary art.