Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Jessica Marcinkevage

marcinkevageName: Jessica Marcinkevage
UR Major:  Biology
Other UR Majors/Minors: German (Minor)
Additional Education: MSPH, Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, Atlanta, GA; PhD (current candidate), Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Current City, State of Residence: Atlanta, GA
Job Title: PhD Candidate, ORISE Fellow
Community Activities: Volunteer, Saint Vincent de Paul Society of the Basilica of Sacred Heart, Atlanta, GA; Member, Wylde Center Community Garden Project; Member, Georgia Organics

How did you choose your major(s)?

I entered the UR as a declared genetics major.  However, during my first year, I took a Quest course in anthropology and realized that I also had an interest outside of the specific topic of genetics.  Throughout the course of my UR career, I continued to concentrate my studies on biology, focusing more on biochemistry than genetics (an “ah-ha!” moment, after taking Terry Platt’s biochemistry course where I discovered the world of nutritional biochemistry), but decided to do the BA instead of the BS track so that I had the opportunity to continue with my anthropology and health & society courses.  It was because of this specificity plus flexibility that I discovered the field of public health and am where I am today.

What did you wish you had known before graduating? What would you have done differently?

I wish I would’ve known that there’s a whole lot of world out there, and with it opportunities for biologists outside of becoming a doctor or running a lab.  I know there are a lot of things I could have done differently before graduating (including figuring out – or rather, finally letting myself accept — before the fall of my senior year that bench research was not for me), but I honestly can’t say if I’d be where I am today if I hadn’t made the decisions I made during my undergraduate studies.  Rochester gave me the opportunity to explore many different areas of study while still connecting them in some big web, keeping biology at the center of it whole time.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career? Where would you like to be in five years?

I am currently pursuing my PhD in nutrition and health sciences at Emory University, and receive my funding through a fellowship with the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  I first came to Emory following graduation from the UR, to pursue my Masters of Science in Public Health – Public Health Nutrition.  During my master’s studies, I had the opportunity to work on a research project in Guatemala and lived for a year in a Mayan community. Through this experience, I found I had great interest in maternal and child nutrition so decided to go on for my PhD.  My PhD dissertation relates to diabetes and cardiometabolic risk factors in women of childbearing age.  I’ve had the opportunity to work on a clinical research study at Atlanta’s largest metropolitan hospital, as well as conduct national research projects with NCBDDD.  I hope to continue my public health career and in five years be working more in a programmatic or policy capacity at the federal or state government level or for another non-profit entity.