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Science Isn’t Always Straightforward

Georgian Court University 2024 Student Spotlight Jennifer Matthews

Embarking on her college journey after a nontraditional hiatus following high school, first-generation student Jennifer Matthews of New Egypt, N.J., takes her education seriously. This has led her to an exceptional array of research experiences and post-graduate opportunities.

Combining her passions for biology and chemistry, Jennifer will graduate from GCU with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry with minors in biology and mathematics this May.

“I’m fascinated by the complex chemical reactions that form the basis of life,” said Jennifer. “Dr. Murthy’s Organic Chemistry class sparked this interest in me.”

Encouraged by Parvathi S. Murthy, Ph.D, Jennifer participated in Princeton University’s prestigious National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program during the summer of 2022. 

“During the program, I analyzed Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectra with statistical software to distinguish between sick and healthy cohorts and identified biomarkers,” said Jennifer. This research could help identify a metabolic profile of some inflammatory or disease conditions.

Jennifer sought out more than one unique research experience during her undergraduate years. Since 2022, she has been conducting a project funded by a NASA NJ Space Grant for undergraduate research. She is collaborating on the project titled ““Structural Effects on the Quantum Yield of Visible-Light Luminescent Carbon Nanodots” with Beth A. Schaefer, Ph.D., Professor of Physics, Sarita Nemani, Ph.D., Professor of Mathematics, and Prasad S. Lakkaraju, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry.

Under the supervision of her research advisors, Jennifer synthesized a carbon quantum dot, a non-toxic version made with carbon instead of cadmium. These innovative quantum dots can be used in bioimaging and microscopy.

“I’ve gained valuable technical experience in the lab throughout my research experiences, and I look forward to exploring the potential biomedical applications of my research going forward,” said Jennifer.

Throughout her educational career, Jennifer sought out tutoring from Patricia Torlucci, Tutorial Coordinator/Academic Specialist, and Joyce Toll, Academic Specialist, through GCU’s TRIO-Student Support Services program and served as a peer tutor for others studying chemistry.

“It was my way of dedicating myself to the Mercy value of Service,” said Jennifer. “As a peer tutor, I not only helped other students understand fundamental chemistry concepts, but I also deepened my own understanding of chemistry.”

These experiences have led Jennifer to a problem that many soon-to-be graduates would love to grapple with: an abundance of choices. Jennifer has been accepted to both a Master’s Program and a Ph.D. program to continue studying chemistry, and has several potential job opportunities.

“I’m still deciding what I want to do,” she said. “For now, I’m keeping my options open.”

Jennifer has accomplished all of this, even though her path wasn’t always straightforward.

“Yes, returning to school after a long time was a challenge. Due to life circumstances and family obligations, there was a gap in my education. That’s why I sought out tutoring and dedicated myself to my studies. It was difficult at first, but I got through it and even surpassed my own expectations.”

Jennifer has a 3.96 GPA, received the Academic Achievement Award in Chemical Sciences, and is a member of Alpha Sigma Lambda and Chi Alpha Epsilon.

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, and in 2024, GCU was named one of the best Online Master’s Colleges in New Jersey.

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.