It's easy to see the logic behind Jennifer Lavender's career path.
As a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Lavender decided that the best way she could give back to the community was by using her education.
And she's doing exactly that.
Lavender earned her bachelor of science degree with a major in molecular biology and bioinformatics in 2006 before going on to earn her master's degree from UW-Parkside in applied molecular biology in 2008.
She's currently employed as a research scientist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's national exposure research laboratory in Cincinnati, where she's working on new methods for testing water quality at rivers, beaches and elsewhere.
That's where her giving back to the community comes in.
"These new water-testing methods give results in less time than currently used methods and can help identify sources of potential problems and notify the public sooner," Lavender said. "I hope my work here will truly make a difference, not only to the protection of the environment, but to public health as well."
Lavender's water-testing methods were borne from the hands-on experience she gained as an undergrad at UW-Parkside, which led to some groundbreaking research for the city of Racine while earning her master's degree.
"During my time as an undergraduate student, the combination of academic classes, hands-on laboratory experience and independent research prepared me very well for my future as a graduate student," said Lavender, who earned both the UW-Parkside Abbott Laboratories Fund Scholarship and the UW-Parkside Abbott Laboratories Research Fellowship. "Having experience conducting my own research, writing detailed lab reports and publicly presenting my results gave me an advantage in finding an internship when I started my graduate career at UW-Parkside."
That internship was with the city of Racine's Health Department laboratory, which gave Lavender the opportunity to complete her master's by doing independent research.
"My research with the city of Racine focused on new molecular-based techniques aimed at environmental water-testing and public health," Lavender said. "Through this experience I was able to present research at local, regional and national conferences while gaining contacts in my field of work, which eventually led to my current position."
Clearly, Lavender's freshman intentions to one day give back to the community by using her education have been fulfilled.
"I feel that my education at UW-Parkside definitely gave me an advantage," said Lavender, who cited the undergrad classes taught by Dr. Pham (DNA lab), Dr. Higgs (RNA lab) and Dr. Barber (protein lab) and the graduate guidance of adjunct professor Dr. Julie Kinzelman as her main influences.
"The small class sizes and personal attention from professors really gave each student the chance to develop their skills and obtain assistance whenever necessary. The amount of laboratory experience, especially conducting independent research and presenting those findings, really prepared me for my career."