Kelly Thommason

Ecology, Evolution, & Marine Biology

Research Interests

I'm a marine ecologist, moonlighting as an evolutionary biologist. (Or is it the other way around?) I'm interested in mechanisms of sympatric speciation and how incipient species evade competitive exclusion in the process of speciation. My dissertation is focused on formulating and testing a model based on empirical data.

Mentoring Experiences

I have had the privilege of mentoring 24 undergraduate students and 11 high-school students in my last four years as a Ph.D. student. To me, mentorship is about educating students about their opportunities and empowering them to choose the path that is best for them. One of the most frequently reoccurring themes in my mentorship is how to become a good scientist. I really don't want my students to just be a cog in a wheel, but rather a critically thinking scientist who not only understands the protocol well enough to troubleshoot and problem-solve but can apply the data output from these experiments in a meaningful and scientifically rigorous way. Not all of my mentees will do direct scientific research, but I believe these critical-thinking skills will be incredibly useful in whatever field they eventually pursue: medicine, industry, and even in non-science careers.

What the Award Means to Her

It's nice to know I'm doing something right! Since my career goal is to become a professor at a teaching university, the acknowledgement for my efforts as a mentor is both appreciated and beneficial to my portfolio as I begin to apply for teaching positions. Mentoring can sometimes feel like a thankless job, but it's really nice to know the university appreciates it — I am honored to receive this award.