Alumni Spotlight: Jessica D. Flynn '09

October 10, 2017
Jessica D. Flynn

Jessica Flynn grew up outside the small, rural town of Gnadenhutten, Ohio, but was always curious about the world beyond her community. She thinks that for this reason, The Ohio State University’s large campus and academic programs appealed to her. She knew that the vast amount of resources available at OSU would offer her everything she needed to be successful in the future. Jessica received her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from OSU in 2009, and PhD from University of Michigan in 2014.

During Jessica’s time at OSU, she noted she was inspired by many, but she credits Dr. Gustafson with being the catalyst for many of the good things that happened to her at OSU. While in CHEM 221 with Dr. Gustafson during her freshman year, Jessica felt a little overwhelmed with the new academic demands of college. Dr. Gustafson was a tremendous mentor and helped her survive that first quarter. Once finished with his class, Dr. Gustafson suggested that Jessica do undergraduate research with Dr. Clark. Working with Dr. Clark, Jessica and another student analyzed nitrate and phosphate concentrations in a wetland area near OSU campus. She believes that this research experience gave her a lot of confidence and allowed her to find some solid footing in the department, surrounded by new friends. Even though she believes her favorite memory from college should be something OSU-iconic, like being on the big screen in Ohio Stadium, what she remembers most about her time at OSU is practicing quantum problems in empty classrooms, or staying late to run experiments in the laser lab with friends. Because of this, Jessica believes the best part of the Chemistry department is the sense of community. Jessica says “The Chemistry department helped me gain a community that made the campus not only feel much smaller and more manageable, but also like a home.”

During her junior and senior years, Jessica worked on a research project in Dr. Gustafson’s lab studying the excited state ordering and mechanism of isomerization in derivatives of 11-cis-retinal. This project also gave her the opportunity to start working on a synthesis project with Dr. Callam, where she continued to develop her love for chemistry. This love for chemistry did not originate at Ohio State though. Jessica took post-secondary classes in high school, and general chemistry with Dr. Fenk at Kent State University Tuscarawas Branch Campus. While the class was tough, she remembers being constantly amazed at all she learned from him. She joked “Also, in our lab course, we used the density of solutions to tell regular Coke from Diet Coke. I just thought it was so fun, and I used to be addicted to Diet Coke, so I think those things played a role, too.”

Jessica believes that her experiences at The Ohio State University have greatly helped her in her professional life and personal life. From a practical standpoint, her training as a chemist and researcher at OSU has given her a strong foundation to build a career on. From a networking standpoint, being an Ohio State alumni has also proved helpful because “Once a Buckeye, Always a Buckeye.” “I’ve met so many alumni across the country and as soon as they know I was a Buckeye too, we’re best friends.” Because of this, Jessica believes that one of the best things about being a Buckeye is being part of a community that extends all over the world.

Jessica is currently working as a postdoc for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where she is developing Raman microscopy as a technique for studying amyloid formation, which is implicated in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. At the NIH, Jessica works with some of the best biomedical researchers in the world and she loves having the opportunity to research problems that directly impact people’s lives. It makes going to work every day easy, because she knows she is doing something important for the world. Jessica stated “I also get to learn really amazing stuff every day and pursue any research question that pops into my head. It’s like being at a playground all day.” In ten years she hopes to be a faculty member at a large research university, like OSU. She hopes to have a lab and the opportunity to work with a group of students and postdocs who are excited to solve important biomedical problems.

Lastly, Jessica offers this inspiring advice to all students – “NEVER EVER EVER GIVE UP!!! Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do exactly what you want to do. Hard work and dedication will get you through most things in life. If you work hard enough, you’ll get to wherever you want to go.”

Jessica D. Flynn