10 questions to get to know our speaker, Jennie Hunter-Cevera!

Posted 6/4/15 by . Filed under Diversity, News and Updates.

A brief interview with our Diversity Session speaker, Dr. Jennie Hunter-Cevera. Come listen to her talk about Initiatives in Diversity at the SIMB Annual Meeting and Exhibition.

What is your role at the Maryland Higher Education Commission?
I am the Acting Secretary for the agency. I oversee staff that deals with curriculum approval, regulatory guidelines and coordination of higher education for public, private and trade schools in Maryland. We are responsible for not only ensuring that higher education is accessible and affordable but also of high quality. MHEC oversees all of the State and federal grants and loans to students requiring financial assistance to obtain post-secondary degrees.

What do you feel are the most important goals that our field must achieve in the next 5 years?
With respect to higher education and the STEM related topics, it is very important that the USA continues to encourage and support students to enter STEM fields especially over the next five years. Our current models for higher education are not sustainable and the student population is changing with respect to demographics and older students going back to school or people changing careers mid-stream in their path. We need to look at new models of funding higher education by being more flexible, more accountable and more responsive to the students and faculty. We also need to provide more internships or experience in industry and encourage industry to provide more scholarships and fellowships for STEM majors

What influenced you to pursue a career in science and how does that motivate you today?
My grandfather’s library was filled with so many books and I loved to spend hours looking at his medical and botanical books. I would ask what was going on in a blade of grass and what did it ‘feel’ when ants walked on the leaf surface? I thought nature was the best teacher to really understand life. I still become very excited when I walk in the woods and just observe all the various life forms and how they interact with each other on many fronts. There are so many health, environmental and agricultural problems to be solved today given the world population and climate change. I believe by elucidating ‘nature’s ways we can find solutions that would benefit societal needs and that keeps me involved in science.

What have you learned from your mentors- they could be personal friends, business contacts, or people you have read about and admire?
That you should always follow your heart and if you really want something, make it happen. Perpetual vigilance is critical to following through on any research project and asking questions from the microbe’s point of view rather than the human point of view can lead to really cool discoveries. Leaders create other leaders, not followers. That no question is too stupid and that team work really does work when the communication is happening at many levels.

Where are you from? And what is your favorite vacation spot?
I was born and grew up in Monessen, Pennsylvania which was a small steel mill town filled with so many diverse cultures and religions. My favorite vacation spot is Townsville, Australia when I am overseas, and Sedona, Arizona when home in the States.

What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learned?
That you are never too old to reinvent yourself.

What are your hobbies?
Exercising and power lifting, painting water colors, tennis, singing.

What are your 3 favorite books?
Pillars of the Earth
The Great Gatsby
This is How

What do you look for in a poster presentation?
When I stop by and read a poster, I first examine to see if the methods employed really address the question or hypothesis being addressed. I look for how the results were interpreted and what future work is or will be planned based on the conclusion.

What have you seen on a resume that you never ever want to see again?
A long, long objective that wants to save the planet!

Bonus: Who do you follow online for tips on diversity or professional motivation?
I don’t follow anyone on line for tips on diversity or professional motivation. I mediate and read the Bible every day – that is pretty diverse and highly motivating!

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