University of Missouri
205 Portland Street
Columbia, MO 65211


Research Core Spotlight: Meet Kathy Hirst

One of the three primary missions of the Thompson Center is to conduct interdisciplinary, collaborative research on the causes of and treatments for autism in an effort to improve the lives of families with autism.

One of the ways that make’s the Thompson Center one of the premier autism research centers in the country is our staff of outstanding, expert research core members who provide logistical support to several ongoing research projects at a time. Over the last few weeks, we have highlighted some of the amazing research core staff who make the innovative, life-changing research conducted at the Thompson Center possible.

What’s your name?

Kathy Hirst

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in southeast Missouri in Cape Girardeau. I came to the University of Missouri to complete my undergraduate degree, and later went on to Texas A&M University to complete my master’s degree. Missouri has always been home, so coming back to Missouri and my friends and family was a no-brainer after completing my graduate work.

What is your position at the Thompson Center?

Research Specialist II

How long have you worked at the Thompson Center?

I have worked at the Thompson Center for almost three years.

What is your role at the Thompson Center?

I work with a team to plan and execute research studies targeting diagnostic tools and outcome measures.

What got you interested in autism research?

I have a strong background in research and have always enjoyed working with children, so when this opportunity emerged, I knew it would be a great fit in merging my interests and experience. The field of autism research is ever-developing, so having the opportunity to constantly learn and grow is very exciting!

What is your favorite thing about working at the Thompson Center?

It would be impossible to choose only one favorite thing! The Thompson Center has such a great sense of community, both internally and with the patients we serve. I was welcomed with open arms on my very first day, and have continued to receive nothing but support in my role. I am incredibly blessed to be in the Thompson Center Research Core, as this experience has given me lifelong friends and the opportunity to be part of a fantastic research team. It is also extremely gratifying to watch our patients and families get excited about participating in research, so I am grateful to play even a small part in that joy.