IUPUC graduate headed to master's program in nanomaterials in Switzerland

Founder of IUPUC's Biology Club, member of the first cohort to complete her biology coursework entirely at the Columbus-based regional center, and a 3.9 grade-point average.

For Jessica Caldwell, sometimes it still doesn't feel real.

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2017 IUPUC graduate Jessica Caldwell. Photo courtesy of IUPUC

"If you had told me my freshman year I would work in the IUPUC biology and the chemistry labs; travel to multiple places in the country to present my research; have my request to graduate at IUPUC both acknowledged and granted; and that I would have the opportunity to travel to another country for my graduate studies I would have laughed," she said. "Yet here I am, thanks to the relationships built at IUPUC."

The Columbus native credits mentors Barbara Hass Jacobus and J.D. Mendez for her successes as a student at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus.

"Dr. Mendez and Dr. Barbara Hass Jacobus approached me about working for them after I completed their classes," she said. "They recognized my drive and desire to learn, and they decided they could help cultivate and guide these qualities."

Caldwell has been a student worker in the biology lab and an undergraduate teaching assistant for multiple biology courses. She's also conducted research in chemistry that led to a student research project and a conference presentation, and she even co-authored a journal article.

At the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco, she presented on her project that used differing ratios of chitin and chitosan to attempt to lower a number of heavy metals, such as nickel and lead, in locally collected water samples. The end goal of her project is to create a water filter that purifies water in a more environmentally friendly manner. She also co-authored a paper with Mendez that will be published in the Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science later this year.

"Jessica has been involved in so many things at IUPUC; I have no idea how she manages to fit so much into one day and still remain at the top of her classes," said Jacobus, biology program coordinator and lecturer in biology at IUPUC. "Her undergraduate research has resulted in papers and poster sessions at conferences that will no doubt be an advantage for her in her field of study. Her impact on other IUPUC students she has mentored, the biology club that she founded and the research she has pioneered will leave a lasting legacy."

She's also been an active campus leader at IUPUC, serving as a student ambassador for three years. The program promotes IUPUC and academic programs to prospective students and their families through campus tours and visits to local high schools.

Beginning in the fall, Caldwell will attend the master's program at the Adolphe Merkle Institute, a center at the University of Fribourg in Fribourg, Switzerland, that focuses on research in soft nanomaterials.

Belinda Allen is a communications specialist in the IUPUC Office of Communications and Marketing.