Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Jenna Anderson
UR Major: Biology (Microbiology and Immunology)
Other UR Majors/Minors: Minors in Mathematics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Additional Education: Masters degree in Biology (Infection Biology and Immunology) from Uppsala University, Sweden
Current City, State of Residence: Uppsala, Sweden
Job Title: PhD student in Vaccine Development (with focuses on Virology and Clinical Animal Science)
Employer: Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) in Uppsala, Sweden
Family: Parents and sister in CT, USA and twin brother in CA, USA. Plus lots of friends (Swedish, American, Danish, German, Lithuanian, etc) in Uppsala!
Community Activities: Active member of Uppsalas Akademiska Roddarsällskap (Uppsala’s Academic Rowing Club); senior member of Västgöta Nation (similar to a fraternity in the US); member of the American Women’s Club in Stockholm, Sweden
What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?
I was involved in HSA, City Cycles, and many other groups to varying degrees. I was also a resident/community advisor, a tutor, and teaching /lab/workshop/office assistants. These activities introduced me to a variety of students, faculty, and non-faculty members with different skills, interests, and perspectives and I think the greatest gift I gained was a tremendous respect for people.
Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?
I found many of my professors and other faculty members inspiring role models as a student, but I consider certain teaching assistants as well as older friends to be my mentors. I have some contact over Facebook with those TAs and contact via Skype, fb, and visits with those older and wiser friends.
What did you wish you had known before graduating? What would you have done differently?
If I had known I would probably work in academia, I would have spent more time attending seminars and reading scientific articles. That said, I’m glad that I didn’t know! Not knowing the future, I was able to spend the present broadening my knowledge in many of the subjects that interested me, and I think that helps me today.
What is your opinion regarding graduate school vs. working right after graduation?
I have heard that it’s mentally and logistically easier to go to graduate school right have after graduation, but I think that you should do whatever feels right at the time, of course coupled with a sense of what you want your future to be like. You don’t HAVE to get a PhD just because all of your friends are, especially if you don’t want to stay in academia, but you might need that Masters degree to work as a researcher in a company, or maybe you just want to switch things up? Everything’s possible, so do what makes the most sense for you at this time in your life.
What early career advice can you give to current UR students studying biology?
Read scientific articles! Make friends in different fields; a cross-disciplinary perspective can improve your approach to
certain problems and deepen your understanding or curiosity. If you do a PhD, consider the people more than the subject; you will likely spend the next 4 years with them so make sure you can thrive together!
What do you do now and why did you choose this career? Where would you like to be in five years?
I chose to be a PhD student because I like the challenges and diversity of academia. In five years, I would like to be a researcher on the long road to professorship, working with insects as vectors of disease, and have greatly expanded my knowledge of proteins and insects alike. I love living in Sweden and I think that I will continue to live abroad, but hope to continue to expand my international collaborations to include the US.