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

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

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.”

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.

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