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University Relations

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Feb. 10, 2009
Contact: Sue Lorenz, University Honors Program, (785) 864-7809.

KU senior wins 2009 Gates Cambridge Scholarship

LAWRENCE — Kansas thunderstorms and a creek near his Lenexa home inspired a boyhood curiosity about science for a University of Kansas student who has won one of 37 Gates Cambridge Scholarships available to Americans for graduate study at Cambridge University in England.

Thornton W. Thompson, a senior majoring in cellular biology, plans to study medicine, specifically oncology, with the 2009 scholarship provided by the Gates Cambridge Trust in England. His longer-range goal is to work in biomedical research, particularly with cancer and immunology.

The Foundation Trust awards 100 scholarships annually worldwide including about 40 for U.S. students. Thompson was among 752 American students competing for a Gates scholarship. Of those, 101 were selected for interviews last weekend in Annapolis, Md. Depending on the field of study, the scholarships cover expenses valued between $22,000 and $35,000 a year.

At KU, Thompson has another scholarship distinction. He entered KU as the first recipient of the Perfect Achievement Scholarship, which covers full tuition and fees for graduates of a Kansas high school who achieve perfect scores on their college entrance exams. He is the son of Victoria Thompson and a graduate of Shawnee Mission West High School.

“Thornton Thompson represents the best among KU students and is an example of the outstanding students who graduate from Kansas high schools,” said Chancellor Robert Hemenway. “I congratulate him on this outstanding achievement. I also congratulate the teachers at KU and throughout his academic career, as well as those in his family, who have all provided the inspiration, encouragement and support every young scholar needs to succeed."

Gates scholarships are awarded on the basis of a candidate’s academic excellence, a good fit between the student and the University of Cambridge, evidence of leadership potential and a commitment to improving the lives of others.

Thornton W. Thompson

Thompson was a 2008 KU nominee for a Goldwater scholarship. His work as an undergraduate research assistant in the lab of David Davido, assistant professor of molecular biosciences, has been included in a manuscript that will be submitted for publication. He is a National Merit Scholar and was selected for University Scholars, KU’s mentoring program offered to 20 top sophomores annually. Thompson’s mentor was Joseph Steinmetz, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and distinguished professor of molecular bioscience and psychology.

In his profile on the Gates Cambridge Scholars Web site, Thompson recalls his inspiration for science beginning with childhood: “Frequent thunderstorms, the creek near my childhood home and even our backyard garden all imbued me with the curiosity of a young scientist. Through my classes, I began to learn more about the science of life, and at the University of Kansas I found my passion for biological research.”

Founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of Seattle, the scholarship program is in its eighth year. Since the inaugural class of Gates Scholars in 2001, there have been 827 Gates Cambridge Scholarships from 85 countries.

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