Professor Lisa Thompson to retire after 7 years at Cornell

Adjunct professor Lisa Thompson (right) was recognized by MSE chair Lara Estroff and other colleagues at a department holiday party after seven years of teaching at Cornell.

Lisa Thompson, adjunct professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is retiring after seven years of instructing the Junior Laboratory two-semester course, training students to become experimentalists well-versed in lab techniques, and preparing them for a future in science.

Thompson announced her retirement last summer and remained with the department to help establish a successor. Thompson’s volunteer appointment will end with the completion of the fall semester.

“That she cared deeply for their learning earned her both the affection and respect of her students,” said Christopher “Kit” Umbach, senior lecturer and associate director of undergraduate studies. “With a superbly organized course and an unflagging willingness to engage with students’ challenges on a daily basis, she set a new standard of teaching.”

In recognition of Thompson’s impact on students, she received the Fiona Ip Li ’78 and Donald Li ’75 Teaching Excellence Award from Cornell Engineering in 2018.

Umbach added that Thompson’s students paid her the ultimate compliment when they told the department that they expected her successor to bring the same devotion and thoroughness to teaching.

“By committing resources and a full-time instructor to our undergraduate laboratories, MSE has embraced her legacy. For faculty and students alike, there will never be another ‘Dr. T’,” Umbach said, referring to the nickname students affectionately called Thompson.

Thompson said she will miss working with the talented, dedicated undergraduates who personally inspired her by how much they strive to learn and grow as engineers.

“I have many fond memories of working with seven cohorts of outstanding students in the lab,” Thompson said, “during office hours, zoom sessions and even late night email volleys when they were actively working through lab data, writing analysis software and final reports. We worked hard together, especially during the pivot to remote lab instruction during the pandemic.”

Department chair Lara Estroff said, “Our undergraduate students have been so lucky to learn from Dr. Thompson over the past seven years. She has transformed our junior lab experience and brought to it a combination of rigor and compassion that inspired our students to perform at their very best. She will be missed!”

Students agree, with one student writing on a recent course evaluation, “amazing course, amazing professor,” and another reporting Thompson is “one of the best professors I have had at Cornell. If she ever wants to teach a full 3-4 credit class I would take it in an instant.” A third student noted, “the strength of this course is the instructor, the number of supplementary materials, and the understanding of where we are at, what help we need, and that our time is respected.”

Of her students, Thompson said: “Throughout the years, it has been extremely rewarding to watch our dedicated juniors attain their goals and head into their senior year pursuits with enthusiasm. I’ll miss that renewed sense of energy that comes every fall, along with the sense of satisfaction and a bright future that comes with each graduating Cornell MSE class.”

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