2013-2014 Luce Scholar

Placement: Buddhism for Social Development Action, Kampong Cham, Cambodia

Nick Thompson graduated from Emory University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Bachelor of Arts in Music in May 2013. Nick has pursued his professional interests, medicine and science, for much of his time in college. After his freshman year, he was a clinical research volunteer in the Neurology Department at the University of Chicago. There, he facilitated a drug trial with Multiple Sclerosis patients and helped standardize a new imaging technique, Optical Coherence Tomography, as a method of marking the progress of the disease. At Emory, Nick has followed his passion for scientific research by becoming involved in an independent research project, which investigates the mechanisms of exercise and electrical stimulation to enhance axon regeneration after peripheral nerve injury. He has continued this research project through his senior year and is currently pursuing an honors thesis in biology with this work. Nick is also deeply interested in the overlap between culture, religion, and medicine/science. During the summer of 2012, he participated in Emory’s Tibetan Mind/Body Sciences program, a 5-week program in Dharamsala, India. The program largely explored the role that religion and culture play in influencing healing practices in Tibetan populations, as well as the convergence of those subjects with Western neuroscience. In addition to his studies of medicine and science, Nick has pursued other interests while at Emory. An accomplished cellist, he has been principal of the cello section in the Emory University Symphony Orchestra, played in several musical ensembles, and engaged in intensive solo performance. Nick also has a passion for the game of chess, which led him to become a chess instructor at local Atlanta elementary schools and president of the Emory Chess Club. As president, he has led efforts to partner with the Georgia Chess Association to create intercollegiate collegiate tournaments for students in Georgia. Nick places a high value on community service and Jewish culture, both of which has he has pursued with the club Challah for Hunger, a group that, nationally, has raised more than $400,000 for Sudanese refugees. President of the Emory chapter of Challah for Hunger, Nick has directed and organized fundraising and advocacy for the American Jewish World Service in Sudan and the Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta via the weekly baking and sale of challah bread.

Buddhism for Social Development Action (BSDA) is a Cambodian-run NGO. In response to criticism from the villagers around the Nokor Bachey Temple west of Kampong Cham City that the monks only preached altruism in theory, seven monks founded the organization in 2005, funding the first three years of its work entirely on their own until their work began to attract international support. The mission of the organization is to empower and support women, children and marginalized people in social development processes, especially in areas of health, education and livelihood promotion.