School of Molecular Sciences undergraduate changing the world one trip at a time


February 13, 2020

Julia Jackman, an Arizona native and a junior in Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences, is pursuing her concurrent bachelor's degree in biochemistry and global health, along with a minor in civic and economic thought and leadership. Her support system consists of her family (including her twin sister, Olivia, and older sister, Emily), whom she thanks for helping her reach her goals and dreams.

“I have made it a priority in my college education to travel as much as I can,” explained Jackman. “I feel that hearing new perspectives and learning about how others live has given me a new outlook on life and what I want to do in my career. While I love giving back to my local community during the school year, I enjoy experiencing new things and challenging myself to apply my learning on an international level during the summers.” Julia Jackman, ASU School of Molecular Sciences Junior Julia Jackman, a junior in ASU's School of Molecular Sciences, traveled to Peru (after freshman year), Israel and Palestine (after sophomore year) and soon to Switzerland, Italy, Jordan, Israel, and Ethiopia (after junior year) at no cost out of pocket. She highly encourages students to take the opportunities such as scholarships that are available to them. Photo by Mariela Lozano Download Full Image

She has traveled to Peru (after freshman year), Israel and Palestine (after sophomore year) and soon to Switzerland, Italy, Jordan, Israel, and Ethiopia (after junior year) at no cost out of pocket. She highly encourages students to take the opportunities such as scholarships that are available to them.

Starting off her journey very early, Jackman found a great interest in the Electoral College and defended her thesis, "Presidential Elections: Implications of a National Popular Vote," in November of 2019. With the guidance of her two mentors — thesis director and Assistant Professor Zachary German and her second reader, state Sen. Sean Bowie — she was able to defend her thesis successfully. Jackman's research consists of quantitative research on presidential candidate campaign behaviors and the winner-take-all method. She presented her research at a conference in April 2019 and will be presenting a poster about her research in Chicago this coming April. Learn more about her research by reading her thesis.

Jackman was also awarded the Barrett Global Explorers Grant, along with one of her best friends, Amal Altaf. Their mission for the trip will be to research the barriers of refugee participation in higher education through the scope of ASU’s Education for Humanity program. The lack of effective and inexpensive online education platforms for refugees first drew her interest to this project.

“We were awarded the $10,000 grant, and we will be traveling to Geneva, Switzerland; Tel Aviv, Israel; Amman, Jordan; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to complete the research. Our goal is to better understand the world of refugee higher education so that we can alleviate the burdens that currently prevent refugees from attending college, since only 1% of refugees currently have access to tertiary education,” said Jackman.

Question: How has being a part of the School of Molecular Sciences at ASU helped propel you in your career?

Answer: The School of Molecular Sciences has been my home for the past three years, and I am so appreciative for all of the opportunities I have been given. Upon first applying to ASU, I was planning on studying biomedical engineering. I had done some work with 3D printing and I knew I wanted to go into medicine, so I thought engineering was the right route for me. However, the summer before I began school at ASU, I met with the advisers in SMS, including Tom Avants and Orenda Griffin. They helped me to change my major to biochemistry, a decision I am extremely happy I made. I have been fortunate to have had incredible chemistry professors, including Peter Williams, Ranko Richert, Ian Gould, Po-Lin Chiu and Kevin Redding; they have not only motivated me in my classes, but also gave me so many skills that have been transferrable to my other classes and to life in general. I have felt supported and motivated to continue down the path to becoming a physician.  

Q: How do you plan to make a difference in the world with your experience and degree after you graduate?

A: I am hoping to pursue experiences working in human rights and refugee studies after graduating from ASU. I’m not entirely sure where this will lead me in the short term, but in the long term, I plan to attend medical school to attain dual degrees — master’s in public policy and doctor of medicine — so that I can work with underserved populations both locally and abroad.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?

A: I currently am one of the co-executives for the Refugee Education and Clinic Team (REACT). It is a partnership between ASU and Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine where we provide health-related educational workshops to refugees and asylum seekers in Maricopa County. We are currently in the process of establishing our brick-and-mortar clinic, which we hope will be established by the end of the year. I hope to continue to work in contexts such as these in the future. In five years, I hope to be in medical school, continuing to work within public policy and humanitarian contexts by practicing medicine. 

Q: Do you have any tips for other undergrad students?

A: One piece of advice that I wish I received was that you don’t have to do everything all at once. Freshman year was an incredibly challenging and overwhelming year for me. I thought that if I were to achieve my goals of becoming a doctor, I would have to do everything all at once as soon as I got to college.

As a pre-med, the pathway to medical school is well-defined; you must do research, you must have clinical experiences, a fantastic MCAT score ... the list goes on. It is really easy to get caught up in this pre-med rat race where you are simply driving yourself to do the things you think you should do, not the things you want to do. For me this created a really toxic mentality that didn’t set me up for sustainable success in college.

My piece of advice would be to pursue the things you love while working to engage in your classes with the content and with the professors. The relationships and experiences you gather in college will likely be among the best in your life, so don’t spend the time doing things you feel obligated to do. Study the things you love and get involved in activities in which you feel energized. Go travel, study abroad, complete a cool project that has nothing to do with your major. Start a new club or join some that look intriguing! Just put yourself out there in the activities you enjoy and everything else will follow.

Q: What made you choose ASU and the School of Molecular Sciences? 

A: As an native Arizonan and a younger sibling to someone who went to ASU, I always knew that ASU was a fantastic school. In high school, though, I was determined to go to an out-of-state university to get a new experience. In the end though, I ended up at ASU because of ASU’s fantastic scholarship program for in-state students.

I am so grateful that I chose ASU, for an endless list of reasons. The major reason, though, is that I truly feel that I have been supported in every step of my journey, by my professors, classmates and mentors. The fact that I’ve been able to attend school for free (because of my merit scholarship and job as a community assistant at Barrett) has opened up so many doors to me in the future as well.  ASU fosters a collaborative atmosphere that has influenced me to engage with my community in a deeper way than I ever thought possible. The amount of opportunities at ASU are endless, and SMS has offered me incredible resources and mentors that have challenged me and changed my life in ways I can’t even begin to put into words. 

Written by Mariela Lozano, communications assistant, School of Molecular Sciences. Jenny Green contributed to this story.

First-gen School of Molecular Sciences undergraduate on path to becoming a physician


February 13, 2020

Oscar Ramos, an Arizona native and first-generation college student, is wrapping up his final semester at Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences as a biochemistry major. Ramos is involved with the Latinos in Science and Engineering organization on campus, where he serves as the second-year secretary for the club. This club has allowed him to grow both personally and professionally into a Latino leader.

Ramos also enjoys giving back to his community through volunteering. He volunteers at an elementary after-school STEM club in Mesa, Arizona. His focus is to serve as a mentor for young individuals, who he hopes will gain a passion and love for the sciences and in the future also join a career within the STEM field. School of Molecular Sciences undergraduate Oscar Ramos School of Molecular Sciences undergraduate student Oscar Ramos wants to help reduce health disparities in his community. Photo by Mariela Lozano Download Full Image

In addition, Ramos — who is learning French and Portuguese — enjoys learning about new cultures and languages. 

Question: What college accomplishments are you most proud of?

Answer: Having the opportunity to conduct research at two prestigious institutions makes me very proud. In the summer of 2018 I was evaluating the effectiveness of a new method for detecting the rate of false alarms in cardiac ECG (electrocardiogram) monitors at the University of Michigan Medical School. I learned a lot of new things during my time there and had the chance to get out of my comfort zone to learn something new.

Last year, I worked in a lab at the National Institutes of Health, which is the largest funding agency of biomedical research in the world. I have to say this experience was pretty incredible! This place is huge, and everyone working there is conducting research on just any topic you could think about. I was in a biochemistry and genetics lab working on a protein that is known to be expressed in cancer cells. I was developing yeast as a model to study the mechanism of this protein in further detail, to be used as an alternative to using human cell lines or other models.

Q: How has being a part of the School of Molecular Sciences at ASU helped propel you in your career?

A: I have had great professors who have been willing and eager to help out with my classes. They have shown their passion for science, and I appreciate that a lot. I think that showing passion for your field and demonstrating that eagerness to help others is important for fields where you work directly with people. Going into medicine, I want to do the same thing for my patients. Seeing how my professors demonstrated their concern for my success is something that I want to take with me into medicine, where my patients can also see my passion for helping them live healthier lives.

Q: How do you plan to make a difference after you graduate?

A: In my journey toward pursuing medicine, I want to start by making a difference in my community. Arizona as a whole is lacking enough physicians to treat our aging and underserved populations. Maryvale, especially, needs physicians who can understand them and connect with them to build that trust between provider and patient. This community is often overlooked by physicians because the majority of the population is uninsured and low-income, so there is not much opportunity for them to go into private practice. This area of Phoenix faces significant health disparities, especially since the majority are from a minority background and low income. I see it every day, and I think that it’s pretty absurd that people are facing these health disparities in a first-world country.

As a future physician, I plan to deliver exceptional care and reduce those health disparities in my community. Using my language skills, I also see myself serving abroad on medical missions in impoverished countries to extend that care to others in need.

Q: Do you have any tips for other undergrad students?

A: Don’t focus so much on having the perfect grades. Most people think that grades will open doors for you, but the real world doesn’t use GPAs. I think that building yourself as a person who can effectively communicate, make a connection with someone and take initiative is much more valuable than being a 4.0 student. You can’t get these things from a classroom; you have to go out into the community and interact with people, help those who are in need. So I say to devote some of your time to volunteering doing something you enjoy and stick to it. It will teach you so much and make you grow as a person.

Written by Mariela Lozano, communications assistant, School of Molecular Sciences. Jenny Green contributed to this story.