Jennifer Matthews ’23 has always loved science but didn’t always believe in her ability to make it a career. She attended culinary school and took web design classes before taking a chance on the scientific field. Jennifer earned an associate’s degree in biology at Ocean County College, where she was an honor student, and then enrolled at Georgian Court University, where she’s excelled as a biochemistry major. This summer, Jennifer’s unconventional path is taking her to Princeton University as part of the prestigious National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program.
The REU has been offering summertime research opportunities at colleges across the country since the program began in the late 1980s. Jennifer is matched with a mentor, István Pelczer, Ph.D., director of the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Facility and lecturer in chemistry at Princeton University. For nine weeks, she’ll work with this renowned expert on research, focusing on mixture analysis using NMR data. “We’ll use statistical methods and tools to identify correlated changes between metabolites across a dataset and determine the significance of these differences,” said Jennifer. Such information could identify a metabolic profile of some inflammatory or disease conditions.
The REU stipend fully covers Jennifer’s program and room and board expenses at Princeton, where she’ll have an opportunity to network with other REU students and Princeton graduate students. “Beyond my project, I am looking forward to accessing the campus library and computing resources,” said Jennifer. “I am also looking forward to meeting students from all over the country with similar scientific interests and career plans.”
Jennifer follows several other GCU students who entered the REU program, two of whom now have completed doctoral degrees in chemistry, according to Parvathi S. Murthy, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and director of general education. Dr. Murthy, who encouraged Jennifer to apply for the REU opportunity, has this observation about REU alumni: “When they complete the program, they are changed people through challenges, hard work, and even competition from peers across the country,” she said.
“I love everything about chemistry—it answers so many questions about why something happens or how something works—but especially organic chemistry, which explains many of the biological processes observed in nature and medicine,” said Jennifer, who plans to apply to graduate school.
As for the REU: “I am incredibly excited and grateful for this opportunity. It is way beyond anything I could have imagined,” she said.