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ASU biochemistry senior spreads love of science and research

SMS Student Jacob Jordan

Jacob Jordan, SMS biochemistry student, will receive his BS in May 2018.

January 17, 2018

Editor's note: This profile is part of a series showcasing students in the School of Molecular Sciences.

Jacob Jordan is a senior majoring in biochemistry and is the current president of ASU’s branch of the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society (SAACS), which allows students to participate in community outreach and spread their love of science both on and off campus. Recently, Jordan and SAACS helped out at ASU’s Homecoming 2017, where they conducted chemistry to showcase the power of the science to the Homecoming crowd.

Jordan has also worked extensively in Professor Jeff Yarger’s research lab, where he researched silkworm silk structure using NMR along with other projects.

“His curiosity and general interest in numerous areas of science and mathematics has been wonderful to have in the group and has led to Jacob contributing significantly to several projects happening in my group," Yarger said. "Furthermore, Jacob is responsible for my group starting several new research collaborations and has taken the group research in several new and interesting directions. It is wonderful to see a student excel and learn from research projects the way Jacob has over the past few years.”

Question: When did you first realize that you wanted to study the field you are majoring in?

Answer: I first realized that I wanted to study biochemistry during my third year of high school, when I started to learn about the incredible things that are possible with modern biochemical techniques. I also became very interested in the amazing complexity of natural systems and their underlying physical mechanisms.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because of the incredible amount of research opportunities available at this university. I actually started working with Professor Jeff Yarger (professor of chemistry, biochemistry and physics at Arizona State University) in high school, when I needed to use a piece of equipment in the labs at ASU for a research project. When I was thinking about college, I wanted to continue my research at ASU’s amazing research facilities.

Q: What research opportunities have you had as a student here, and can you describe your research experience?

A: I have been lucky enough to be able to do research heavily during my first two years at ASU. My research experience at ASU heavily involved peer-mentorship in the laboratory and, after such time that I became confident in my lab skills, leading my own projects. In Professor Yarger’s lab, I began researching silkworm silk structure using NMR. I was also in charge of raising and isotopically labeling silkworms as well. I have done a few other research projects around the department, although still in Professor Yarger’s group, notably with Konrad Rykaczewski in the engineering department about hydrophobicity of wax surfaces in cacti and in web-spinner insects. I have also helped in some research into silica nanoparticle peptide bond catalysis for alanine while in Professor Yarger's group. The faculty at ASU has always been extremely supportive in helping me complete research projects.

Q: What are some extracurricular activities that you enjoy at ASU? 

A: I started becoming involved in the student affiliates of the American Chemical Society (SAACS) during my freshman year and eventually became president of the club by my junior year. Through SAACS, I have been able to perform chemistry demonstrations at local schools, help K–12 students touring ASU understand fundamental chemistry concepts, and aid schools in cultivating outstanding scientists through involvement in science fairs and poster-presentation sessions.

Q: What’s something you have learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: Something I've learned at ASU is just how much you can accomplish when you really dedicate yourself to something. I never would have seen myself as someone who would be proficient at biochemical techniques or biophysical characterization methods four years ago. Now, after taking numerous courses and dedicating myself to studying, I am able to see my growth and feel confident in my understanding of certain scientific concepts.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to students interested in coming to ASU to study chemistry or biochemistry?

A: The best piece of advice I can give to students entering chemistry or biochemistry at ASU is to study hard and try to get involved in undergraduate research opportunities. This not only gives you valuable experience that will definitely put you at an advantage when you graduate, but it also helps you connect with the professors at ASU and research professionals around the world. You can never know too many people in your profession.

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