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Jessica Stevens, Goldwater Scholar

Jessica Stevens

You are UT Arlington’s third recipient of the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.

It feels surreal. I wasn’t sure I could compete against Ivy League schools in research because I was so new to science and there was no way I could be up to their level. I guess my overzealous, hands-on attitude helped me experience so much in a short time.

And you share the Goldwater Scholarship honor with your husband, who was UT Arlington’s second recipient.

It gives a lot of people the impression that we are a power couple, but honestly it’s more than us having won this honor. What it took to get it is what we really have in common. We both work hard not just to learn, but to master the material we are presented. We seek out opportunities to test that mastery and then move on to the next challenge, not necessarily because we have to but because we want to.

You started at UT Arlington as an architecture major. Now you’re a double major in biology and microbiology.

Architecture was my dream, so when I changed majors I had no idea what I would do. I considered the kinesiology program, which required both biology and chemistry. During my first college biology class, I fell in love with it and knew it was the path for me.

Do you see any overlaps between architecture and your current field?

What I liked about architecture was creating spaces within constraints in order to solve a problem. With biological research, you are essentially solving a complex problem with the added understanding of a vast array of theory. As odd as it may sound, I feel like I get more opportunity to use my creative skills in my current field.

What is your primary research focus?

I’m currently examining the effects of an invasive species of zooplankton in Texas lakes. Invasive species can drastically change ecosystems, and because zooplankton are at the bottom of the food chain, they can be more likely to change an ecosystem’s structure. Understanding what happens ecologically in various environments will allow us to respond to and hopefully prevent environmental problems.

Why do we need more women in STEM fields?

Women think and solve problems differently than men. Without that additional perspective, the best solution may never be realized. We need that balance in all aspects of science to attain the greatest scientific achievements possible.

How is UT Arlington helping you achieve your educational and career goals?

I would not have had anywhere near the number of research experiences, connections with professors, recognition of potential as a Goldwater candidate, or had the opportunity to find myself.

What do you plan to do after graduation?

I’ll go to graduate school to pursue environmental research. I want to help make the world a better place and give back to my community. Performing research will definitely help me accomplish those goals and hopefully put me in a position to educate others.


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