Dedication, Research, and Faith Paved the Way for Jada Walker ’18

Jada Walker ’18Jada Walker ’18, who grew up near Sacramento, modestly shakes off congratulations over her successes in the field of science at Saint Mary’s. “I’m just extremely grateful for opportunities that not many people get, unfortunately,” she said. Her hard work from day one at Saint Mary’s paid off with extraordinary grant, research, and conference opportunities that have prepared her for her current doctoral studies at the University of Texas. And it all started with Science Professor Jim Pesavento, who noticed Walker’s “super meticulous lab notebook and stellar lab reports,” he said, when she was only a sophomore in Biology 1. He invited her to conduct research in his lab, which opened her eyes to the world of science during the next three years.

“I had no idea, no clue what scientific research actually was. I never knew that there was the world of the PhD, going to graduate school for science, just participating in research––that first summer of my junior year just really led to a whole new world,” Walker said.

“Doing research during my last two years was pretty impactful. From there, I was able to do an internship with the National Laboratory at Berkeley, which inspired the work that I’m doing today.” Through a grant, she was able to attend the American Society for Mass Spectrometry conference in San Diego, where she participated in a poster presentation with Pesavento’s encouragement, among much older students and post-docs. There, Pesavento said, Walker caught the attention of Professor Jennifer Brodbent, chair of the Chemistry Department at UT, who encouraged Walker to head to the doctoral program at UT. “It was through that poster competition that I was able to meet my current advisor at UT, which is how everything seemed to line up.”

Walker credits Saint Mary’s not just for her academic strength and successes. “Attending mass and Catholic services and relying on my religious background was influential as well, and inspires how I live. My faith definitely influences what I do. Saint Mary’s College is a breeding ground for personal development, especially through things like Seminar.”

For now, Walker has more studies ahead, along with a bright future. “I would love to be a professor so I can continue to uplift more students into this field. I’m so grateful,” Walker added with true Gael spirit.