Testimonials for Pioneer Member William Thompson

Trino Ascencio-Ibáñez – Bill has been a very strong presence in my life. He has been a mentor, a friend and a critical colleague for me, making my work more interesting and challenging. I am extremely thankful for his advise and his chilled way of letting me know I was wrong. I also particularly like his saying..”there is no perfect grant, only deadlines”. I am thankful for his teachings, his advanced work with DNA in plants and especially, for his cooking. Thanks Bill, for making our lives wider, better and more interesting.

Margaret Daub – I served as Department Head for many years in Bill Thompson’s department at North Carolina State University. Bill has been a major contributor to our academic and research programs, as well as serving as a leader among the faculty. He is among the most internationally recognized of our faculty, based on his significant advances in plant genome research, including DNA replication, epigenetics, transgenic technologies, and more. His reputation and expertise has brought significant funding to his program and to the department and university, leading not only to important advances in the field but also to the training and mentoring of excellent students and researchers who have gone on to distinguished careers of their own. Student evaluations of his courses have been excellent, documenting not only his skill as an educator, but also the respect that students have for him, his expertise, and his contributions to the field. During my time as an administrator, I also greatly appreciated the contributions he brought to faculty governance, including his willingness to mentor faculty and provide thoughtful and learned leadership to address difficult issues and challenges. He is an outstanding scientist, educator, and leader and is well deserving of this distinguished honor.

Miguel Flores – Dr. William Thompson, my mentor, colleague, and friend, intiringly walked me through the challenges of being a scientist. His wisdom and love for plant science cultivated in me the seed of curiosity for understanding aspects of chromatin organization inside the nucleus. I am forever grateful for his time as my teacher, not just in the classroom and lab, but also in the whole context of life.

Mariana Franco – Dr. Thompson is a great scientist, mentor and friend.

Maria Gallo – As I reflect on my academic career, I cannot overstate the tremendous impact Bill had on my professional growth. While I was attaining my Ph.D. in Bill’s lab, I learned his commitment to excellence and what it meant to be a dedicated scientist. Bill is a true scholar and innovator. He motivated everyone he worked with to push boundaries and make discoveries that would advance plant biology. He inspired me to be my best and realize that I had the talent to pursue my professional goals. He was a patient teacher and an amazing mentor. Now he is a trusted colleague and friend. Throughout my career journey, Bill was always a staunch supporter giving of his time and sharing words of wisdom. His genuine interest in my career has been a steady source of motivation and helped fuel my ambition. I will forever be grateful to him and consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from, and work with, such a consummate scientist.

L. Curtis HannahIt is a pleasure and an honor to help recognize Bill Thompson as a Pioneer in the American Society of Plant Biologists. I met Bill many years ago at a Gordon Conference and we became close friends over the years. A topic of recent conversations has been the origin of plant molecular biology. In my view, this field started when the genetic material was analyzed at the molecular level, aka Cot curves. Bill was one of the first plant people to pursue this area of research and hence I consider him one of the fathers of plant molecular biology. Having people like Bill as a friend makes academia fulfilling and enjoyable.

Yokiko Hiromoto – Bill has been a wonderful teacher, tutor and friend. He always is there when you need him. All I have to say is thanks for the wonderful person you are and for the knowledge that you shared with us and the world.

Chuck Niblett and Ana Bailey – We are pleased to honor Bill Thompson as an ABSP Pioneer. He has contributed so much personally and intellectually to his science, his students, and his university.

Niki Robertson – Bill’s research addresses fundamental questions in plant biology. How do plants replicate their DNA? How does nuclear architecture impact gene expression? What is the molecular basis of light-regulated gene expression? And, a question I have had the benefit of collaborating with him on, what is the basis of Virus-Induced Gene Silencing? In addition to making important advances in these areas, Bill has been a valued member of our department. His dedication to training grants, and to student training in general, is exemplary. He approaches science with a collaborative attitude and has brought together people from applied and basic research to strengthen research training. He has always been a voice of reason at faculty meetings and was a valued mentor throughout my tenure at NCSU.

Randall Shultz – Dr. Thompson was my Ph.D. thesis advisor at North Carolina State University, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him. His mentorship and guidance had a lasting impact on my life and career, and I am grateful for the experience I gained under his leadership. From the outset, Bill showed a genuine interest in my research and supported me through the sometimes arduous process of developing a novel research project. His ability to provide personalized guidance while also encouraging me to think independently was instrumental in my development as a scientist, researcher, and as a person. Bill nurtured a sense of camaraderie among his students, encouraging us to exchange ideas and collaborate on projects. Through his mentorship, he instilled in us the importance of teamwork and the power of diverse perspectives. This not only enhanced our research outcomes, but also prepared us to thrive in the professional scientific community. Bill’s deep knowledge and expertise in genome biology, genetics and crop science were evident in every interaction. His ability to distill complex concepts into accessible explanations made learning from him an engaging experience. He encouraged critical thinking and challenged me to push the boundaries of my understanding. His insightful feedback and constructive criticism helped me refine my research, leading to a stronger thesis and more impactful scientific contributions. Beyond his academic expertise, Bill was always pushing me to step outside of my comfort zone, presenting my research at conferences, writing scientific papers, and networking with other researchers in the field. His support and guidance throughout these processes were invaluable, and I credit much of my professional growth to his mentorship. Finally, Bill’s impact on my personal and professional development went beyond the laboratory. Whether it was on a hike or over dinner, Bill was always approachable and genuinely concerned about any challenges I faced. I can’t overstate the deep and lasting impact Bill has had on my life and career. His unwavering dedication, mentorship, and commitment to excellence have shaped me into a better scientist and a more well-rounded individual. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to have worked with him, and I wholeheartedly recommend him for this ASPB Pioneer Legacy award.

Dolores Sowinski – I worked with Dr. Thompson at North Carolina State University (NCSU) for 25 years as his lab supervisor. Bill leads by example, treating everyone with respect and fairness. He is competitive, although humble, and patient but persistent. I remember watching the way that Bill put people at ease. He listens well, speaks slowly, and thinks before answering. One of the many things I learned from Bill is that gentle persuasion works better than arguing and that giving people time to reflect builds cooperation.

When I joined Bill’s lab, plant molecular biology research at NCSU was only beginning. By the time I retired, NCSU’s plant molecular biology expertise was well-known, in large part due to Bill’s recognition of his colleagues’ talents. Within months of his arrival at NCSU, he persuaded faculty from various departments to team up and apply for a McKnight training grant. They succeeded in winning two successive McKnight grants over several years, training numerous grad students and post-docs some of whom he continues to collaborate with.

Bill and I set up three research labs together. It was illuminating to work with someone who welcomed my opinions and suggestions. It was also rewarding because he delegated most of the decisions to me, from ergonomic design to choosing coral paint for one of the walls. Bill was always receptive to discussing difficulties and usually offered thoughtful solutions. He never hesitated to pick up the phone to reinforce my authority. His support was remarkable to me, but Bill thought it was normal. He wanted to validate his team.

I never thought I would work in one lab until retirement. I stayed because the work environment was based on Bill’s attitude of inclusiveness, respect, cooperation, and excellence.

Emily Wear – It has been my pleasure to work in Bill’s lab. He mentored me in every aspect of doing science, from the conception of the ideas to be addressed, designing good experiments, communicating the results clearly and everything in between. At the same time, he modeled how to be a leader who takes care of their team, encourages opportunities for each person’s development, and enjoys helping others problem solve so they can be successful.