Spotlight on diversity: Interview with Olivia Thompson

Posted 4/11/16 by . Filed under Diversity, Featured News, News and Updates.

Olivia Thompson.
Undergraduate Institution: University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Graduate Institution: Microbiology Department, University of Georgia
Olivia Thompson

1. What is your research focus as a graduate student in Dr. Joy Peterson’s Lab at the University of Georgia?
My research is focused on understanding the environmental stress tolerance of an industrial Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain evolved for ethanol production with pretreated pine fermentations through genetic and comparative genomic studies.

2. What influenced you to pursue a career in science and how does that motivate you today?
I have always been fascinated by all fields of science. To me, it was just really fun! As a kid, I would do random science projects with my siblings and participate in science fairs when possible. Throughout school and college, I was always intrigued by the science related classes and became aware of the importance of the field in just about all aspects of how we carry out our everyday lives. The motivation comes from having the passion to just continue to learn and evolve in doing something that I love and that find fun and interesting.

3. What have you learned from your mentors- they could be personal friends, business contacts, or people you have read about and admire?
Everyone I look up to has dedication and perseverance. They are passionate about their field whether it is science or not. You genuinely have to have that to keep going day after day, especially through the bad days where nothing seems to be working!

4. What is the best advice that you’ve received?
The most helpful thing I have learned is to consult others- classmates, my PI, other professors, and those not in my field. Perspective is very helpful. I am also learning how to take criticism and to not be overly defensive. Everyone wants you to succeed and willingly offers guidance.

5. What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learned?
To put the pipette down and walk away. Sometimes you have to step back and reevaluate.

6. Where are you from? And what is your favorite vacation spot?
I am from Memphis, TN by way of Alabama (birthplace) and I wish I had resources (time and money) for vacation. When I can, I try to spend time with family or friends and relax. I would love to travel outside of the country or at least to an island, but I have to learn how to swim first!

7. What are your hobbies?
Currently I am trying to get back into leisure reading, I like sci-fi and mystery. I also like doing DIY projects for home improvements/décor. I have recently gotten interested in brewing ciders, and am working on my first batch. Yay yeast!

8. What do you hope to do after graduation?
As of now, I am leaning towards industry and R&D. I have not TA’d yet, but who knows? I might love teaching and stay in academia

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