June 12, 2017

John Thompson has academic success down to a science, specifically chemistry. The new PhD grad leaves SFU with an A+ cumulative grade point average, 15 publications to his name and a 2015 Faculty of Science Graduate Student Teaching Award. His thesis on the design of highly birefringent materials was accepted with the rarely used “Category 1” designation, “Thesis accepted without changes.”

When asked for his study tips, Thompson says he’s doesn’t think he has any unique habits.

“What makes it easiest,” he says, “is to make sure you enjoy what you are studying. I could always find the motivation to study chemistry because I am genuinely interested in learning about it.” 

Thompson is currently residing in Edmonton, where he is already employed as a scientist in the analytical chemistry department at Gilead Sciences Inc. He is in training to oversee the release of commercial and clinical drug products.

Thompson’s not sure whether he’ll stay in industry or end up in academia—right now he’s happy to join the working world.  He is confident that his philosophy and attitude will lead him in the right direction.

“I don't really have a specific career goal at the moment, I'm just trying my best and seeing where it takes me.”

He adds, “I  tend to live by a few rules or mottos: be nice/ kind to people, help people without expectation and work hard. I think if I stick to these then I'll be okay.”

He’ll be “more than okay,” however.

Thompson is one of the first researchers in the world to study birefringent materials that are critical to optical technologies and telecommunications.

His supervisor, professor Danny Leznoff says, “The methodology developed by John has led to a completely different way of examining and designing crystalline materials that show record-breaking birefringence (having a refractive index that depends on the polarization and propagation direction of light). His work really has defined the new field of study”.

Thompson is excited to put his PhD to work but says he’ll miss the people at SFU.

“The chemistry department at SFU has a really good vibe where everyone collaborates and is willing to help one another. I made a lot of good friends there (both students and profs) and I definitely miss working with them already.”