Macademics: My Interview with Sierra Jackson

Hey Everyone! It's my favorite time of the month again and that means another installment of #Macademics ! For our newer supporters, this series is used to highlight a person, or topic in STEM. This month, I decided to interview my friend, Sierra! She's originally from New Orleans and graduated from LSU in 2015. Currently, she's with me at OSU and she's also in my lab. I decided to interview her for #Macademics because she's helped me A LOTTTTT since I've gotten to graduate school and I wanted her to spread her wisdom to all of you. Plusssssss she's pretty awesome. Read what she had to say below.

What sparked your interest in chemistry? Did you always know you wanted to be an analytical chemist?

I’ve wanted to be a scientist since I was about 8 years old, but my curiosity in chemistry peaked when I participated in my state’s science fair in high school! It was there that I found a love for chemistry. While I was at Louisiana State University, I began research in an analytical chemistry group working on protein characterization with NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance).

How’d you decide to come to OSU for grad school?

I went to a NOBCChE conference my senior year and met the vice chair of The Ohio State's Chemistry and Biochemistry department. I was very impressed with how the department made a safe space for minority students to thrive. This was something that I knew I wanted and needed in a graduate program. She also kept in contact with me over the time that I was applying to schools and that continued even when I started coming here. You could tell that she genuinely cared about my progress so I knew I made a great decision.

What made you choose your group? How’s your group’s dynamic?

I have always been interested in science that had some sort of real-world application and that has been my experience in my current group. We do science that is applicable to real people and that can be used by non-experts. As far as the dynamic, my group dynamic is pretty positive. We trust each other and work as a collective to make sure we all succeed. We're a pretty fun group.

What type of research are you working on right now?

My current research involves the development of 3-D microfluidic paper-based devices for the direct analysis of Malaria biomarkers via mass spectrometry. The goal is that it can eventually be used to detect others diseases and since it's small and cheaper to make than other disease detection techniques, it can be used in places with limited resources.

Biggest challenge you’ve faced? How did you overcome did?

The biggest challenge I’ve faced so far is passing the candidacy milestone. This had to be the most challenging part of my graduate school career (thus far) because it was physically and mentally draining. It took a lot of studying, practice, and support of friends.

**Devin sidenote. The candidacy exam for us at OSU requires us to write a proposal based off our research and then take an oral exam. In the exam, your committee basically sits there, while you're at the white board, and asks you questions for 2 hours. So it's a chalk talk**

What’s the best piece of advice someone’s given you?

Remain confident and do not forget who you are and why you are here. I‘ve learned that always being true to yourself brings you back to your compass so you always want to make sure that’s what you’re doing.

One thing you know now that you wished you knew before coming to grad school?

Stay true to the path and do not lose sight of your goal. It's easy to be hard on yourself in grad school, so being able to try to always see the light is important. It's a long journey so you always want to have the end in sight.

A piece of advice you’d give someone considering a doctoral program in chemistry?

Once you know for sure this is what you want to do, write down the vision. Make sure to refer to it often so when the journey gets rocky and you want to give up, you can remember it and keep it moving.

A great piece of advice Sierra's given me, that I will pass on to you all, is to focus on my own journey/progress and not what other people are doing because at the end of the day, my PhD is mine and mine alone. We all have different projects and sometimes they're going to work and sometimes they're not, but at the end of the day, in a program like this where it's based off what YOU are doing, you have to focus on you and be confident in what you're doing.

What other concerns do you have about graduate school? Tweet me some questions!

- The Chemist


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