Ph.D. Student in Genomics & Computational Biology, University of Pennsylvania

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Jenea I. Adams

What do you do?

I combine knowledge in biology, computer science, and mathematics to answer biomedical research questions in cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. I'm interested in building and using data analysis tools on large amounts of biological data to help uncover patterns that could help discover new biology or make targeted therapeutic treatments for diseases.

Why did you choose this field?

During my second year as an undergraduate majoring in Biology, I was beginning to narrow down my coursework and wanted to focus on a unique application of biology to research. I have always had an affinity for technology and a desired to build tools, so I decided t declare a minor in Computer Science to gain more expertise in programming and related mathematical concepts. During the summer after my Junior year, I landed an undergraduate research experience at the University of Pittsburgh's TECBio program, which provided me with more formal training in computational biology in a biomedical research setting. I saw how diverse and interdisciplinary the field was, and loved the combination of skills I was building in bioinformatics research. That's when I decided that I definitely wanted to pursue my Ph.D. in Computational Biology so that my training could prepare me for more leadership roles in industry or the opportunity to continue academic research in the field. Computational Biology is the perfect combination of everything I love in science.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

As a first-generation higher education student, it was at first difficult for me to imagine what my professional life could be like after college. Even high school me would not have known that it was possible to start in a fully-funded Ph.D. program at a top university right after achieving my Bachelor's degrees. Younger me benefited greatly from proper mentorship, advocating for myself and my resources, and continuing to work hard. During my first year in my Ph.D. I also received an honorable mention for the NSF GRFP, one of the most prestigious graduate research fellowships STEM. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love working in STEM because I've always believed science is one of the major keys that give us answers to the world around us. There's room for intellectual challenges that will always reveal something new about things like diseases, natural physiological processes, and much more. There is so much to learn and simultaneously put work into that will ultimately make the world a better place.

Best advice for next generation?

Learn to advocate for yourself and use your voice!

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced." - James Baldwin

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