Dr. Luanne Thompson is a Professor in the Department of Oceanography. Much of her research is devoted to understanding climate change, and particularly how it affects the Gulf Stream and Pacific Ocean. Based on her research, Dr. Thompson has found that the earth’s climate is certainly warming as the oceans currently absorb significantly more heat than in the past. She feels it is important that the public understands this warming pattern and addresses it as able. To help equip students with relevant knowledge and tools, she participates in the NASA-funded UW Program on Climate Change, a project in which she and other UW scientists develop and implement climate science curricula for Washington State school districts.
When asked what people thought of women scientists when Dr. Thompson was attending school, she replied “I don’t think I’ve ever had a female math or science instructor in my life.” Still, Dr. Thompson pursued her interest in science, but explains below the challenges she has faced because of her gender:
Q&A: Enduring Challenges as a Woman Scientist
Q. What challenges have you faced during your education or career path?
A. I did have some negative experiences while I was in college. I interned for a family friend at a small company and I told him I was thinking about graduate school. He said to me, “Oh, you really shouldn’t do that because it’s not fair to your advisor if you go get a Ph. D. and then go and just have babies.” So, that was pretty negative. But I guess just being a physics major and being a woman was little intimidating. If you were at a party and you told people that you were a physics major, they would sort of back up. Then after I graduated from college and worked as an engineer, I received a lot of negative female comments. It was a pretty miserable experience.
Q. What does being a woman scientist mean to you?
A. I find that I am really collaborative, both in the department and in the university. I tend to connect really well with graduate students because I have the female characteristics of liking to talk and connect with people. So, I am involved in a lot of graduate student research. I’m much more connected on campus than a lot of my male colleagues. Sometimes being a woman I find that I don’t have a thick enough skin. I care too much of what other people say.
Learn more about Dr. Thompson via her lab website: http://www.washington.edu/research/energy/researcher/luanne-thompson