#OfficeHours highlights our fixed-term-track faculty
Susan Thomas, Ph.D., Department of Chemistry
Dr. Susan Thomas is a senior lecturer in the Department of Chemistry. She is teaching four lectures and supervising three labs this semester. In addition to her instructional duties, she is the SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) coordinator and the undergraduate biochemistry advisor.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Thomas currently accomplishes all of this from the safety of her home. Since March 2020, Thomas has learned 38 different software programs in an effort to improve the online learning experience for her students.
"I don’t like lecturing to blank screens," she said. "The biggest challenge [right now], is when I teach to a classroom, I can see where they understand and where they are completely lost. Now, it’s a big struggle to understand how to engage the students. I truly miss that interaction."
Thomas originally studied chemistry because she wanted to perform cancer research. After college, she worked in a natural products chemistry lab before returning to Texas to work in a molecular biology lab. She then earned her doctoral degree in protein folding and thermodynamics, which led her to work in an x-ray crystallography lab.
"I had my first child and reevaluated what was important," she said. "I decided to teach and ended up loving it and being part of shaping the next generation of scientists."
Thomas is now the mother of two teenagers as well as an avid hiker, biker, and gardener. When she isn’t grading papers or lecturing, she manages her family’s miniature menagerie—including an 80-pound sulcate tortoise, lizards, fish, rabbits, and a cat.
"I am getting ready to learn what it is like to be the parent of a college student," she said. "It will be very different to be on the other side. I am also getting ready to teach my second child how to drive. Teaching someone how to drive is a very humbling experience."
A UTSA faculty member since 2004, Thomas relishes the gratifying moments when a chemistry concept clicks for students.
"It’s been a great ride and I’ve really enjoyed working here," she said. "It doesn’t hurt that I live close to campus so it’s an easy walk to school. I can’t wait to get back to face-to-face."