STEM Student Contextualizes Goals

August 2nd, 2020 - 5:01pm

Jenna NicolasContextualizing Goals

Jenna Nicolas is an outstanding STEM student, studying a mixture of chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and psychology. She chose to attend College of Marin (COM) due to its proximity to her remote community on the seashore so she can drive to classes without ever having to get on Highway 101. She was initially interested in Chinese Medicine and the pursuit of a medical degree.

“College of Marin has been the springboard for my ambition to enter STEM academics,” Nicolas said. “As a low-income student, there is a financial balance I must maintain which can be stressful and, at times, limits the opportunities I am available for. At COM, I don’t face that barrier and feel free to fully challenge myself.”

She first applied for a summer internship after she attended a STEM Learning Community presentation at COM given by Professors Paul Daubenmire, Antonino Cucchiara, and Erik Dunmire – all three of which, she says, were “very supportive of my application process with letters of recommendation.”

Her summer 2020 internship is at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL), where she will be working directly with a researcher who is conducting a study of mentoring practices in STEM research labs. The goal will be to identify key experiences of internship structures that are most beneficial to both the scientist and the intern.

Nicolas is excited about the opportunity to interview interdisciplinary scientists who are currently conducting research in their own labs, or in research groups, or within LBNL. “I am looking forward to getting a very broad view of the STEM field and making connections to people that I may want to work for in the future,” she said. “I also believe it will help me contextualize my goals in the STEM field by hearing how professionals structure their work and internships.”

Nicolas plans to pursue a graduate degree that’s either a masters or Ph.D. in neuroscience or behavioral biology. “My long-term goal,” she said, “is to earn my graduate degree in Germany at one of the Max Planck Schools.”

“STEM subjects were always the most interesting to me, because they allow you to understand the world around you in new ways,” Nicolas said. “While it is very challenging, the larger academic community that I’ve found through STEM studies allows for great connections, because the ideas that are shared are expansive and thoughtful.”

“For me, this type of connection is a great motivation to push my own understanding,” she concluded.