Abbey Thompson started as the Director of Outreach Activities for Stanford Genetics in March 2018. Prior to that, she received her Ph.D. in Genetics from Stanford University, completing her dissertation research with Dr. David Kingsley. During graduate school, she studied the molecular mechanisms underlying the evolution of new traits in vertebrates, using stickleback fish and mice as model systems. Before arriving at Stanford, she did post-baccalaureate work with Dr. Laufey Amundadottir at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), characterizing GWAS SNPs associated with pancreatic cancer. She received her B.A. in Biology from Northwestern University in 2011.
She has many years of experience teaching science in a variety of settings. During graduate school she participated in many different science outreach opportunities. Most notably, she participated in the "Stanford at the Tech" program, which introduced her to The Tech Museum and informal education in that setting. She also taught STEM education for the non-profit group Science from Scientists, bringing hands-on science activities to middle school students. In addition, she volunteered in a variety of different forums, including the Stanford Science Bus, which brought hands-on science activities to a local elementary school; Stanford Medical Youth Science Program, for targets underprivileged high school students who are interested in careers in STEM fields; and panel discussions on genome editing in local high schools.
Current Role at Stanford
As the Director of Outreach Activities for the Department of Genetics, she manages a number of different projects. Her main focus is a program initially developed over 13 years ago called "Stanford at The Tech." This is a program that uses The Tech Museum in San Jose as a backdrop for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to learn how to effectively communicate science to the public. The program has proven to be both successful and popular with these young scientists. Every week for two quarters, participants lead hands-on genetics activities for museum visitors, and receive feedback to improve their communication skills.
As part of their training, students help to answer questions from the public submitted through our website, "Understanding Genetics." The Understanding Genetics website reaches over 6 million visitors annually. A popular section of the website is our "Ask A Geneticist" section, where the public can submit questions about genetics. 100-300 questions are submitted every month, each of which receives a short answer from Dr. Thompson. Some questions also receive a longer blog-like answer that is posted to the website, written by the graduate student and postdoctoral fellows.
Education & Certifications
Ph.D., Stanford University, Genetics (2018)
B.A., Northwestern University, Biology (2011)