Scholar Lara Thompson Navigates an Unconventional Route - Higher Education
Higher Education News and Jobs

Scholar Lara Thompson Navigates an Unconventional Route

Email




Take one step into Dr. Lara A. Thompson’s engineering lab at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), with its high-tech equipment, and you will quickly get a glimpse of why Thompson loves what she does.

“None of this was here before,” says Thompson, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and director of the biomedical engineering program at UDC, of the spacious facility that is now used to conduct postural and rehabilitation research for stroke survivors, the elderly who are susceptible to falls, and current and former athletes.

The lab, which was established as a result of a three-year National Science Foundation grant of $400,000, includes sophisticated equipment that measures, among many things, an individual’s balance and movements.

For Thompson, who wrote the proposal for the creation of the Biomedical Engineering Program at UDC, this type of cutting-edge work is what excites her most about working in the academy. Born in Boston, Thompson grew up in southern New Hampshire and matriculated at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where her father — a professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the school’s Center for Advanced Computation and Telecommunications — remains on the faculty.

Dr. Lara A. Thompson (Photo courtesy of John Spaulding)

“Growing up I had a lot of interests, and I had a lot of energy,” says Thompson who took the advice of her UMass Lowell professor and went on to Stanford University for

graduate school and earned a master’s in aeronautical and astronautical engineering.

From 2005 to 2007, Thompson worked as a mechanical engineer at Charles Stark Draper Laboratory and then enrolled in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she earned a doctorate in biomedical engineering in 2013.

Related:  Purdue Storm Chasers Hit Pay Dirt During Outbreak

When it was time for her to go on the job market, she interviewed and landed the job at UDC.

At UDC, Thompson encourages her students — the majority of whom are minorities and first-generation students — that they can accomplish whatever they set out to do.

“Many of my students are as good as students anywhere else,” says Thompson. “When

people tell me that they are surprised by how good my students are, I say to them, ‘I’m not surprised. Why are you surprised?’”

“In the area of teaching, Dr. Thompson has shown strong dedication to teaching with open access to students,” says Dr. Devdas Shetty, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at UDC. “She has developed several new courses in biomedical engineering and established the biomedical engineering laboratory for research and teaching.”

Thompson’s family history is a perfect study in the intersections of race and culture.

Her paternal grandparents met in the 1950s during the Korean War. Her grandmother grew up in Japan and her grandfather, a Black man from Pittsburgh who was a high school dropout, worked as an airplane mechanic.

Curious observers often wonder about Thompson’s ethnicity. Her mother is Filipino. Her personal identity provides an opportunity for her to discuss the personal advantages of diversity.

Thompson says that she is often asked what it’s like to work in a field where women are underrepresented.

“I never really think about it,” she says. “I don’t think of myself as being oppressed and I don’t want my students to feel like they can’t do what they want to do. I tell them all the time that I want them to feel empowered.”

Related:  TMCF Boss: Nothing Political About $26M Gift from Kochs
RELATED ARTICLES >>
Strayhorn Out as Research Program’s Director at Ohio State The Ohio State University (OSU) Center for Higher Education Enterprise (CHEE) quietly updated its website last week, removing Dr. Terrell L. Strayhorn from its “who we are” section. Strayhorn, a well-known academic, was the director of CHEE up until ...
Bill Proposed to Put Dropouts Back on Educational Path As Krisha Ross got closer to aging out of foster care, she decided to drop out of high school in 2015 in order to find work. “I did not see the value of continuing school for two years when I needed to work to live,” said Ross, who dropped out of ...
Project Aims to Help School Nurses Tackle Suicide Rates ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Researchers in New Mexico, California and Maryland are working with public school nurses in hopes of curbing suicide rates within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community by making school grounds safer. University o...
Activist, Journalist Roger Wilkins Dies Civil rights activist and noted journalist Roger Wilkins, who led the Community Relations Service in the Johnson administration in the 1960s, has died at age 85 in Kensington, Maryland. His family said that the cause of his death was complications fr...
Semantic Tags: