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GCU Student Lands Prestigious Research Opportunity From National Science Foundation

Jennifer Matthews landed an NSF REU at Princeton University this summer

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.

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Georgian Court University is a leading regional university that provides a transformative education, preparing students for ethical leadership and service in the Catholic Mercy tradition. Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. The university has a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women.

As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 1,900 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 16 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings.

The main campus is in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students through its Center for Professional Studies, and at other locations, including GCU at Brookdale, and through multiple online degree and certificate programs.