The Thompson Lab


The Thompson Lab welcomes people of any race, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, caregiver and family commitments, political affiliation, religion, and eligible age or ability.

Current Lab Members

Michael Thompson
Principal Investigator
mthompson30 (at)
Scholar Citations

Mike’s longstanding research interest lies in understanding how proteins function by dynamically interconverting between different conformational states.

He was first introduced to structural biology and X-ray crystallography as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, where he was a research assistant in Tom Alber’s laboratory. In the Alber lab, he worked on efforts to determine the structures of signaling proteins that are required for virulence in Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

In 2014, he received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UCLA under the direction of Dr. Todd Yeates. As a graduate student, Mike investigated the role of conformational polymorphism in expanding the functional diversity of a key family of proteins that define a widespread class of prokaryotic organelles collectively known as “bacterial microcompartments.” His work revealed the role of conformational polymorphism in defining specialized functions of microcompartment shell proteins, including ligand binding and allosteric regulation.

Mike joined James Fraser’s lab at UCSF as a postdoc, where he helped develop new methods that combine temperature perturbations with static and time-resolved structural measurements to provide detailed insight into the conformational landscapes of biological macromolecules. These new methods, including multi-temperature and temperature-jump X-ray crystallography and solution scattering, are being applied by the Thompson lab and others to understand how protein function is modulated by genetic mutations, by interactions with other molecules, and by other physical stimuli. As a postdoctoral fellow, Mike was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the BioXFEL Science and Technology Center (NSF), a Kirschstein NRSA (F32) fellowship from NIH/NHLBI, and an Independent Postdoctoral Research Award from the UCSF Program in Breakthrough Biomedical Research (PBBR).

In 2020, Mike was appointed as Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UC Merced. He is a member of the NSF CREST-CCBM Center and affiliate member of the NSF BioXFEL Science and Technology Center. He is also a member of the Participating Research Team (PRT) for Beamline 8.3.1 at the Advanced Light Source and co-PI of a Scientific Campaign at the Linac Coherent Light Source.

Luisa Garcia Michel
Graduate Rotation Student (Fall 2021)
lgarciamichel (at)

Luisa earned her B.S. in Chemistry at the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND. She studied allosteric communication in ERK2 and its mutants using computational modeling and molecular simulations in Dr. Daniel A. Barr’s lab.

During her undergrad, she discovered her passion for teaching and research. She pioneered the Learning Assistant (LA) program for Chemistry classes and was involved in a variety of language and science teaching opportunities.

In Fall 2021, Luisa joined the Thompson lab as UC Merced’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Ph.D. student.

Vincent Hernandez
Undergraduate Student
vhernandez65 (at)

Vincent is a current University of California, Merced undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Human Biology. He is interested in growing and learning in research and is joining the Thompson Lab to pursue these goals.

Ralph McAnelly
Assistant Specialist
rmcanelly (at)

Ralph’s original background is in biology (cell biology). Somewhere along the way, he detoured and got hooked into structural biology and biochemistry.

His journey in science research started back in the Philippines where he spent his undergraduate years, as a biology major. When he moved to the UK to pursue further postgraduate studies at the University of Sussex, he started fiddling with fruitflies. He got involved in a Drosophila cell and molecular biology project. During his time in the UK, he learned a variety of techniques and methodologies, including Drosophila genetics and cell biology, live cell imaging, molecular cloning, and protein purification. He eventually got introduced to electron microscopy (EM).

He then moved to New York and worked on a collaborative project aimed at using the transmission electron microscope for molecular structure determination of membrane proteins. He played a key role in establishing a high-throughput pipeline for membrane protein structure determination at the New York Structural Biology Center. This electron crystallography pipeline consisted of protein crystallization, EM imaging, image processing, and helical reconstruction. With this pipeline, Ralph was involved in determining structures of a variety of proteins, mostly ion transporters such as the zinc transporter YiiP and the borate transporter Bor1p.

He joined the Thompson Lab in 2021 as a research specialist, and now works jointly with the Sukenik Lab.

When he is not on the bench, Ralph enjoys hiking and camping. He used to be an avid badminton player but now he mostly plays volleyball. Also, he hangs out quite often with 3 dogs and 1 cat.

Dondis Moreland
Undergraduate Student
dmoreland2 (at)

Dondis is a current undergraduate student at the University of California, Merced. She is currently a Chemical Science major and is interested in gaining knowledge and learning more about researching in a lab. This will be her first experience in a research laboratory and she is very excited to learn from her fellow colleagues and mentors.

After her undergraduate career, she plans to attend Dental School after her college career. When she is not working in a laboratory she loves doing community service with her church, working out, going outside for a hike or run, and planting flowers.

Destini Nguyen
Undergraduate Student
dnguyen365 (at)

Destini started her pursuit of undergraduate research in mosquito abatement under the guidance of Dr. Colleen Naughton at UC Merced. She presented a virtual mosquito safety and prevention workshop at a local high school about the prevalent and potential mosquito-borne diseases in the San Joaquin Valley during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Summer of 2021, Destini will be working in the Thompson Lab as a BioXFEL intern.

Destini is pursuing a B.S. in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Human Biology and a minor in Writing Studies. Her involvement on campus includes working in IT’s Special Events department and being an active member of the professional pre-health co-ed fraternity, Delta Epsilon Mu. When Destini has time to pause, she enjoys journaling, dancing, and reading.

Josh Rodriguez
Graduate Student
jrodriguez465 (at)

Josh earned a B.S. in Biochemistry at CSU Fresno in 2019. There, he found an interest in structural biology and crystallography while performing research under Dr. Cory L. Brooks. Josh’s research in the Brooks Lab focused on expressing and purifying novel antibody fragments that target cancerous forms of certain members of the mucin family of proteins.

In the Fall of 2020, Josh entered UC Merced’s Chemistry and Biochemistry Ph.D. program and began research in the Thompson Lab. He is currently working to biochemically characterize and determine the crystal structure of human IRF-3 in complex with HIV Vpu, an effort that hopes to reveal potential for host-directed antiviral therapies.

Behnoush Seifinoferest
Graduate Student
bseifinoferest (at)

Behnoush started her bachelor at Kharazmi University at 2010 and finished at 2014. She ranked 27 at the nationwide higher education exam in Iran among more than 16,000 chemistry students. She started her Master at the university of Tehran at 2015 with focus on Pd-catalyzed synthesis. She got interested in medicinal chemistry and chemical biology after graduating and started working as a senior research assistant in the Endocrinology and Metabolism Research Center, Tehran University of Medical Sciences. She will start her work at Thompson lab at Fall 2021.

Beside research, Behnoush is a huge Harry Potter fan and a Jane Austin fan. She loves literature, foreign languages and music.

Alexander Wolff
Assistant Specialist
awolff2 (at)
Scholar Citations

Alex has broad scientific interests, but most of his work has focused on the use of X-ray methods to monitor protein dynamics. He earned a Ph.D. in the Fraser Lab at UCSF while working on this challenge. Specific focal points included the use of temperature jumps to perturb protein structures, monitoring perturbations during time-resolved X-ray experiments, and exploration of diffuse scattering as a source of information on protein structural dynamics.

In the Thompson Lab, Alex aims to expand on initial temperature-jump experiments with a focus on developing computational methods to support such work.

Otto Thompson, Do.G.
Moral support

Otto completed his interdisciplinary research training in 2005. His contributions to science since then have been numerous, including his development of innovative methods for detection of crumbs and other microscopic snacks from floor licking and sniffing data with very low signal-to-noise. He currently studies proteins (mainly chicken and beef, but sometimes lamb or salmon), and examines, at high resolution, the landscapes of orthopedic pet beds. His office hours are from 7AM-7:15AM daily - do not disturb during naps.

Past Lab Members

Nathaniel Brown - Junior Research Specialist, Feb.-Aug. 2021, Now UC Merced QSB Graduate Student