Jessica Price ’06
“Lake Forest College provides its students with tremendous opportunities to design and carry out original research as part of coursework and theses.”
Jessica Price ’06 received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and works at the Nature Conservancy after studying biology, art history, and English.
How did you explore your interests and decide on a major?
As a double major, I really had two paths to finding the best fit for me. I arrived at Lake Forest College with a passion for math and science and quickly found a home in the biology department, where I could explore different avenues of science to find the one that best fit. I also had a serious interest in the visual arts. My first-year studies class with Professor Ann Roberts really set me on a path to major in art history, and I went on to take many courses with Professor Roberts. The topics were SO interesting - I just had to learn more. Luckily, Lake Forest was a place that I could major in both the natural sciences and the humanities. A liberal arts education was the perfect fit for me.
Describe a moment or experience you had in college that helped define your career path.
While Lake Forest College shaped my future in so many ways, one experience that really stands out to me is taking Intro Chemistry with Professor Elizabeth Fischer. Every Friday, I would show up to Professor Fisher’s office before our 8 a.m. class (and the impending quiz) with questions. And every time, she would help me work through the challenges, explain concepts, and check that I understood. Professor Fischer taught me so much about chemistry and was the first of many to demonstrate the passion and dedication of teachers at Lake Forest. And as I taught undergraduate courses in biology years later, I strove to emulate their patience and skill–they made great teaching look so easy! (Hint: it’s not.)
Being a part Eukaryon’s first years was also a defining experience. First, it taught me that with enough determination and hard work, a small group of dedicated people can make their vision a reality. In those first years, the editorial board with the help of Dr. DebBurman turned an idea into reality–an innovative and award-winning undergraduate research journal that’s now in it’s 14th year! Second, it sparked my own work as a science writer and editor at the University of Chicago and later at the University of Wisconsin’s Environmental Resource Center.
What steps did you take in college to prepare for your career?
Lake Forest College enabled me to prepare for my career in three main ways: coursework, research/internships, and involvement in student organizations. I was able to align all three around my interests in science and the environment, majoring in biology, taking research-based courses and summer internships, and engaging in science and environmental focused student organizations like Eukaryon and LEAP. Its never easier to be involved in your community and make positive change than when in college!
What role did your internship or research experience play in shaping your career path?
Internships and research experiences are a very useful way to explore and figure out what you do and, just as importantly, do not enjoy about a discipline, field of research, or methodological approach. Lake Forest College provides its students with tremendous opportunities to design and carry out original research as part of coursework and theses. I took two research-based courses focused in Cell and Molecular Biology and Ecology. I also participated in two summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs sponsored by the National Science Foundation. These experiences taught me a love of research design and ecological field work. The skills that I gained during these experiences gave me a strong foundation for research and teaching in the biological sciences in graduate school.
What would you recommend Lake Forest College students considering a career in your field do to prepare?
I encourage anyone with an interest in environmental conservation or advocacy to pursue the topic from the angle that interests you most and best complements your skills. You don’t have to be a biology or chemistry or even an environmental studies major to go into the environmental field. Tackling the most pressing environmental challenges requires dedicated, motivated people from across disciplines–scientists, yes, but also sociologists, economists, geographers, engineers, and others.
When choosing your life’s work (in any field), the most important thing is to figure out what you’re passionate about and how you want to influence the world–then find the point of entry that best fits you based on your personality and skill set.
What have you found the most rewarding in your career and life after graduation?
Landing my dream job at The Nature Conservancy! Working with such smart, motivated, amazing people on solving some of the world’s biggest challenges is at inspiring and exciting.
Any other advice to Lake Forest College students?
Write write write. Lake Forest College’s across-the-board emphasis on writing is so important. Successful people are able to express their ideas in writing. Whether a tweet or a tome, clear written communication cannot be underestimated as a skill you will need after graduation.