Our newest Science Cheerleader (NFL, NBA cheerleading scientists and engineers) has multiple degrees and big dreams. Jessica is a rookie cheerleader on the Tennessee Titans who is also a biomolecular engineer. Learn more about her in this interview.
Jessica: I have always enjoyed math and science and applying them to “real world” application was just a plus. It’s easy to see why you are learning certain subjects when you can readily apply the information learned. I am enjoying the challenging, diverse, analytical field of engineering. I don’t know if any other field would offer me as much satisfaction.
You’re pursuing a Ph.D. in Engineering at Vanderbilt University. What specific type of engineering are you pursuing?
Jessica: I was very busy during my undergraduate years at Vanderbilt; in four years I completed a degree in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and my Masters of Science in Environmental Engineering. I am now in the second year of Vanderbilt’s Chemical Engineering Doctoral Program. I am studying Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. The main goal of a chemical engineer is to create, develop, and apply processes to molecules’ temperature, composition, chemical structure or physical state to produce something useful. These processes could convert raw materials such as crude oil into desired products such as cosmetics, plastics, or chemicals. I work in Modeling and Simulations, specifically with an equation of state called the Statistical Associating Fluid Theory, or SAFT equation. The SAFT equation provides a mathematical relationship between two or more properties (states) of a particular chemical. By applying numbers to these various states, we can describe how different chemicals behave more accurately.
Best part of your day job or studies?
Jessica: When working on an issue I can spend anywhere from 5 hours to 2 months or so working relentlessly on a problem. The feeling I get after solving the problem I have worked so hard on is indescribable.
Why did you tried out to be a professional cheerleader.
Jessica: I was excited about becoming associated with a group of women who are making major moves in their own life while also giving back to the community. I believe that giving back to those who are less fortunate, serving as a role model, and being a positive influence on others is extremely important. I am able to do all of the above and I am able to do it with a great group of intelligent women.
Which came first, your interest in engineering or cheerleading?
Jessica: Science and engineering definitely came first; since elementary school I have always enjoyed participating in science fair and math competitions. I spent my free time searching for competitions or science groups to join to increase my knowledge and understanding of science. Predicting then proving or disproving results of my theories continues to be a thrilling way to spend my day.
Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream and another?
Jessica: I would tell them that stereotypes are seldom accurate, and that if they have a genuine interest in a topic or subject, don’t allow society or what it expects to deter you from pursing it.
Along these lines, what advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Jessica: I would tell her to, for sure, stay focused in pursuit of her education but to be sure to enjoy the journey. Your college days will be some of the best times of your life, the friends you make will last a life time, so please remember to enjoy.
What are your plans for the future?
Jessica: After I complete my PhD studies in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, it is my plan to become a college professor with research as well as teaching responsibilities.
Best cheerleading experience?
Jessica: The first professional game I cheered, wow, it was so exciting just being a part of it! The fans, 40,000 or more strong–the teams, the intense and fast-paced game–this was a great personal experience that I can assure you I will remember for the rest of my life.
Best engineering-related experience?
Jessica: I have attended and participated in many science fairs and competitions. One of my best experiences was presenting my research results at National American Institute of Chemical Engineers. The results of this presentation became my first successful publication in a peer reviewed journal. In addition, I won 3rd place out of 30 contestants.
Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
Jessica: I think that it is important to show how accessible science and technology careers are to anyone with a genuine interest. If you are participating in something that makes you happy, you are bound to be successful. At a young age, it’s ingrained into us that if you don’t fit the specific stereotype of an engineer, scientist, or mathematician then you won’t succeed; however, I think it is important to let young girls know that this is not accurate and that you can do anything that you put your mind to with hard work and the help of God.