Chatham University

Innovation & Research

Jenna Luek '10 and her research share the perfect chemistry

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When Jenna Luek first entered Chatham as a freshman she set her sights on a major in chemistry with a minor in French. However, she soon changed her minor to environmental studies after taking an introductory course in environmental science.

When it came to developing her tutorial research project, Jenna Luek thought that procrastinating until her senior year would not be beneficial. So she decided to start two years earlier than most, during her sophomore year.

She chose a tutorial topic that not only interested her but has shaped her future. Jenna worked with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science on “Persistent Organic Pollutants in the Atlantic and Southern Oceans and Oceanic Atmosphere,” where she analyzed air and water sampled by collaborators at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science from the Atlantic Ocean and the Southern Ocean (the water around Antarctica).

By the time she reached her senior year, ready to defend her tutorial, she was recognized for her studies when Dr. Falconer told Jenna that she had received the Iota Sigma Pi Award for Excellence in Chemistry. This award is given to only one woman a year and “almost always given to a women who attends a large chemistry power-house school” making Jenna’s achievement even sweeter.

After graduating Chatham this spring, Jenna chose to attend the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary where she plans to earn her Ph.D. in chemical oceanography. She was inspired by her passion for the environment and the experience she obtained while working on her tutorial.

There, she will be continuing work with Dr. Rebecca Dickhut, who was the professor who worked with her on her tutorial research in concert with Chatham tutorial advisor Renee Falconer. Dr. Falconer has very high hopes for Jenna and her research, saying that, “She did such a great job (the summer of 2008) that Dr. Dickhut asked if she could continue the work at Chatham over the school year. She then went back to VIMS this past summer and finished the analysis of the samples. She is currently working on a publication that will be submitted in the next couple of months. Jenna is definitely a top notch student researcher already and will do great things in graduate school – she is planning on attending VIMS and has already written proposals to both EPA and NSF for funding for her research while there. She will make a great environmental chemistry researcher someday and I hope to continue our collaboration for years to come.”

Jenna has also been chosen to travel to Antarctica’s Palmer Station, a research base, this fall where she will be collecting a variety of air, seawater, and ice samples. These samples will help continue her research from her tutorial with Dr. Dickhut about organic pollutants in the arctic region.

After graduate school Jenna plans on diving deeper into her research, possibly abroad, and then hopes to become a faculty member at an undergraduate institution and teach chemistry. “I want to spend my time balancing research and teaching. Research will help keep me up to date in the field and hopefully will be able to provide me with insight which I can pass on to the students.”


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