Problem-solving skills gained at Baker serve alumna in graduate program

Testing a hypothesis, experimenting and seeing the results of her research inspire Baker University 2012 graduate Jackie Thompson.

Since participating on the robotics team at Paola High School, Thompson has been hooked on science. She graduated in May with a Bachelor of Science degree, majoring in chemistry, before entering the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Kansas Medical School. The program provides the first-year core curriculum for graduate students planning to become biomedical researchers.

“I feel like the problem-solving and interpersonal skills I gained at Baker have been extremely helpful and allowed me to do well in the graduate program,” said Thompson, whose first lab rotation in the program focused on validating the effects of potential drug candidates to treat Parkinson’s disease. “The variety of classes at Baker prepared me well. I really enjoy being at the lab bench, solving challenging problems affecting human health.”

During her time on the Baldwin City campus, Thompson valued the interactions with science faculty, in particular, chemistry professors Gary Giachino and Michael Barbush.

“I was fortunate to develop a close connection with both of them,” Thompson said. “They remain close mentors, and we still stay in touch. I appreciate all the help and support they gave.”

The professors nurtured Thompson’s research and presentation skills. Twice at Baker’s prestigious honors symposium, held each May at Mabee Hall, she showcased the results of her work in the area of chemiluminescence, the emission of light as the result of a chemical reaction. She also investigated a known chemiluminescent reaction for the fleeting intermediate species, and used infrared spectroscopy to characterize gas phase intermediates and products.

“I was certainly focused academically at Baker and enjoyed presenting my research,” said Thompson, an active member of the University’s Chemistry Club. “While you are presenting, you are immersed in it for months and it is easy to talk about.”

During her time on the Baldwin City campus, Thompson shared her love of the sciences with her classmates, serving as a chemistry and biology tutor and as a general chemistry lab assistant for three years.

A visit to the Baldwin City campus and meeting with Giachino her junior year of high school persuaded Thompson to attend Baker. Before seeing the arbor, chapel and the campus landscape, Thompson was leaning toward attending a larger state school.

“I had never considered going to a small school, and then I fell in love with the campus and I felt very much at home,” she said.

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