James C. Thompson Endowed Graduate Fellowship in Physics

Jun 9, 2017 | Graduate Fellowships

The James C. Thompson Endowed Graduate Fellowship in Physics was established by the UT System Board of Regents June 9, 2017, to benefit the College of Natural Sciences. Gift funds were provided by former students, colleagues, friends, and family members to honor Professor Emeritus James C. Thompson, Ph.D.

 James, also known as Jim, joined the Department of Physics faculty in 1956. His early research included properties of superconductivity, but then moved to other low temperature experiments involving semiconductors. After a chance comment from his wife Carol May, a chemist, he began exploring solutions of anhydrous ammonia and alkali metals, a topic that dominated his research for 30 years. The solutions were not well regarded in the physics community in the mid-1950s, but a paper co-authored by Thompson with Morrel Cohen in the mid-1960s served to make the subject respectable. Jim was chosen as a fellow of the American Physical Society in the 1970s, and became professor emeritus in 1994.

Jim’s enthusiasm in the classroom and his cheerful banter were much appreciated by students. He maintained that his first love was research, but teaching was clearly a close second. His contributions to classroom and laboratory teaching include introducing statistical mechanics into a course in thermodynamics and re-structuring and teaching an upper-division modern physics laboratory course. He made employing undergraduates in his lab a priority. He was also especially sensitive to making sure female undergraduates and graduate students had research opportunities.

From his earliest years, Jim also made sure his graduate students were provided with the financial support they needed to flourish both personally and professionally, which resulted in the publication of over 40 Ph.D. dissertations under his supervision. In recognition of four decades of tireless advocacy, Jim’s students, family members, friends, and colleagues banded together to establish a graduate fellowship in his honor. The fellowship was created as a means to ensure that Jim’s legacy will live on and provide support and distinction to future generations of Physics graduate students.

Update: Jim Thompson passed away in July, 2018

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