Erika Thompson was shocked to learn she had been named Staff Educator of the Year, but her students weren’t surprised at all.
“We love working with Erika,” say MD Anderson School of Health Sciences students Prince Otchere, Juma Kabanja and Jun Li of their mentor and teacher.
As co-director and manager of the Sequencing and Microarray Facility, Thompson supervises the day-to-day operations of the core lab and assists principal investigators with their research projects, helping them carry out sophisticated DNA sequencing, genotyping and quantitative gene expression studies.
When Thompson’s not sharing her expertise with investigators, she’s sharing her knowledge with future allied health professionals interested in cytogenetics and molecular genetics.
One of the best things about working in her lab, her students say, is they get to do everything themselves.
“She walks you through the steps, but then everything from there you get to experience firsthand,” says Otchere, who, along with Kabanja and Li, is pursuing a degree in molecular genetics technology, one of eight allied health programs offered at MD Anderson.
Another plus for these students is they get their own samples, which allows them to start a project from scratch and to generate their own results. Thompson says it’s exciting “to see when they get a result for the first time and realize that what they did worked.”
Thompson’s interest in science goes way back to elementary school. Growing up in a “science household,” she never really considered anything else, except becoming a doctor.
“I thought that’s what I wanted to do, then I took some lab courses in college and realized I was happy in the lab and that’s where I wanted to be,” says Thompson, who taught clinical chemistry and clinical instrumentation while pursuing her master’s degree at Florida International University.
Her students are glad she chose the lab, too, and happy to have the opportunity to work with Thompson.
Simply put, they say, “She’s great.”