Alumni Profile: Fall 2016

MCB Alumni Profile
By Kirsten Mickelwait

Thompson and Fraser
Postdoctoral fellow Michael Thompson (left)
and UCSF Associate Professor James Fraser (right)
first met in the late Professor Thomas Alber’s lab at MCB.

A long-term professional relationship can be born at any time. For James Fraser and Michael Thompson, it began in the lab of the late MCB Professor Thomas Alber, where Fraser was a PhD student and Thompson was an undergrad. Ten years later, Thompson is now a postdoctoral fellow in Fraser’s own lab at UCSF, where they study the structure and dynamics of protein molecules. Their discoveries may one day be used to design new therapies that can correct diseases at the molecular level.

An associate professor in UCSF’s Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, Fraser remembers his time working in Alber’s lab as “a tremendously influential time in my scientific career. I also came away valuing the culture he instilled in his lab, and try to create the same positive, supportive, encouraging environment in my own.”

After graduating from Berkeley, Thompson went on to pursue his PhD in Biochemistry at UCLA. In 2014 he bumped into Fraser at an annual meeting of the Biophysical Society. After completing his doctorate, he found an opportunity to get involved in Fraser’s lab at UCSF.

“For graduate students who have the ambition of running their own lab one day, keep in mind that some of the best future applicants may be the current undergraduate students,” Fraser says. “There are plenty of people who will be a great scientific fit, but it’s harder to find that personal fit.”

From the more junior perspective, Thompson adds, “Never be afraid to ask for the opportunity to get involved in a project that interests you. Faculty will appreciate your enthusiasm for their work.” (Fun fact: Thompson received the Protein Society's "2016 Best Best Paper Award.")

Celebrate the life of Thomas Alber and reconnect with colleagues — join us for next year’s MCB Thomas Alber Memorial Lecture.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017
3:30 to 4:30 pm
100 Genetics & Plant Biology Building
Featured speaker: Christopher Sassetti

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