Jesse Rush ‘18 graduated with a BS in biological sciences and a BA in Spanish. During her time at Chapman, Rush was the President of the Chapman University chapter of Women in Science and Technology, an Orientation Leader, and participated in undergraduate research opportunities. From Geneva, Illinois, Rush was able to enter into the Chapman community with ease, and become involved across all aspects of campus life. She is now pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Colorado Boulder and is in Alaska for the summer conducting research.
We asked Rush a few questions about her time at Chapman, her career goals, and any advice she may have for current Schmid students.
Q&A with Jesse Rush:
Schmid College: Tell us about your research and your day-to-day life as a graduate student.
Jesse Rush: I’m currently starting my second year as a Ph.D. student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department at the University of Colorado Boulder working under Dr. Merritt Turetsky. My research is focused on understanding how different microbial processes control methane production in peatlands, a type of wetland that has a large amount of organic material. Most of my research will actually be looking at peatlands at the Bonanza Creek Long Term Ecological Research Site located near Fairbanks, Alaska.
As a graduate student, my days can vary. During the school year, especially your first year of school, it’s a lot of reading scientific papers and brainstorming research ideas. I also take graduate classes and work as a graduate teaching assistant, teaching general biology and microbiology labs. This summer, however, I have been out in the field spending my days at two different peatland sites. I work with a team of three other scientists to collect greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide and methane, and porewater measurements from both a fen and bog.
SC: What led you to pursue graduate school?
JR: In my sophomore year at Chapman, I joined Dr. Jason Keller’s Wetland Biogeochemistry Lab also known as the Swamp Monsters (#cuswampmonsters). I mainly joined to get research experience and didn’t realize how much I would enjoy both research itself and peatland biogeochemistry. I ended up working as a swamp monster for the rest of my undergrad and for two years after graduating. Completing my own undergraduate project and learning what it’s like to do research from beginning to end confirmed I wanted to keep doing my own research. I also served as a supplemental instructor for Introduction to Molecular Genetics which made me realize how much I enjoyed teaching. Put those two together and I knew my desired path was to go to graduate school so I could pursue a career in academia and hopefully become a professor.
SC: How has your Chapman degree helped you?
JR: I feel more well-rounded as both a person and scientist having my Chapman degree. Grad school isn’t about memorizing textbooks but really about problem-solving and being able to think critically. My time in all my classes at Chapman, science or otherwise, have made me feel more confident to tackle these problems myself.
SC: What advice do you have for current students who want to make the most out of their time at Chapman?
JR: We say it all the time but connect with the faculty! The Schmid faculty are there to help you and support you throughout your time here. Also, be open to new opportunities even if you aren’t sure you’ll love it. I wanted to give research a try and didn’t even know what wetlands really were at the time, and I ended up becoming passionate about both!
SC: Which Schmid faculty member(s) made the greatest impact on you and how?
JR: All of the Schmid faculty were and continue to be supportive of me! But, I have both Dr. Jason Keller and Dr. Cassandra Medvedeff for training me and teaching me how to do research. They taught me how to design and carry out an experiment from start to finish. And, of course, they did it in a way that was fun and with plenty of swamp monster swag! Dr. Melissa Rowland-Goldsmith was also a great mentor to me throughout my time at Chapman, giving me opportunities to explore my passions for teaching and mentorship.
SC: How were you involved on campus during your time as a Chapman student? (clubs, organizations, etc.)
JR: One of my biggest passion projects involvement-wise was serving as the President of Women in Science and Technology (WIST). I wanted to create a fun, low-key space to connect with students who faced similar challenges in the sciences.
SC: What is your favorite Chapman and/or Schmid memory?
JR: One of my favorite memories is watching the building and unveiling of the Keck Science building! I was invited to give a speech at the naming event which was really special to me. Even though I graduated before taking classes in there, I did work in Keck for two years. It was so cool to see Schmid move homes from Hashinger to Keck and see all the science on display in its full glory!
SC: What was your favorite spot on campus as a student?
JR: Definitely the Student Union. I loved being able to camp out there and get work done while catching up with friends as they passed by. I’d stick to a table all day and chat with friends about homework and life, it was just a fun place to be!