TROY professor finds passion as STEM mentor

Dr. Jacqueline Jones has developed a passion for mentoring students in the STEM field, helping them earn scholarships, internships and awards.

Dr. Jacqueline Jones has developed a passion for mentoring students in the STEM field, helping them earn scholarships, internships and awards.

Dr. Jacqueline Jones, an assistant professor at Troy University’s Biological and Environmental Science Department, has been involved in the success of many minority STEM scholars and research collaborations with other universities across the country through her mentorship programs.

For years, Dr. Jones has been working closely with students to prepare them for major opportunities, such as TROY alum Blake Swicord, who acquired an internship at the prestigious Harvard Medical School after working with and receiving a recommendation from Dr. Jones.

Dr. Jones’ primary goal in mentoring is to help students understand the importance of having an interest in the sciences. This has mostly been achieved through her personal research lab and the core classes she teaches.

“I mentor specifically through my own research lab,” Dr. Jones said. “I typically have two math students a year and about three undergraduate students that I mentor directly where they are involved in research throughout the year. I try to get them to present at conferences outside the university to really expand their network and their understanding of science and overall research. That’s my primary level of mentorship and something I am very passionate about.”

Outside of her personal lab, Dr. Jones is also involved in two major programs which target local high school students with an interest in the STEM field.

One is focused on underrepresented minority students in the university’s TRIO program, and the other is focused on helping students in the STEM field up until they graduate college and even after.

“There are two different programs: the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) and the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program,” Dr. Jones said. “We start at the high school level for the LSAMP program and we bring local high school students to Troy for the summer for those in the junior and senior year and we give them a college-like experience, so that they have an idea of what to expect when they get to college. Our goal is to really bring them here so that once they begin in our program, they don’t just go to another institution, they come to TROY.”

The high school students who are accepted into TROY are admitted in the LSAMP program and then guided through monthly checkups and taught skills that help them even after they graduate.

Some of these skills include workshops in resume building, interviewing skills and professional development.

“My goal has always been — in both programs — to really prepare students to do excellent work outside of the classroom, because it is not enough to teach them the book content without teaching them how to get the job and how to keep the job, especially with underrepresented minorities, because it’s something they might not have been taught at home,” Jones said. “So, we go over presentation skills, how to give a talk and engage your audience by telling a story, we go over table etiquette skills. I really want to teach them to be holistically the best that they can be.”

Dr. Jones also believes in promoting her students by getting them involved in international conferences where students are encouraged to compete globally with other students.

“I think it’s important for students to be aware that if you want to be a global leader, you have to compete globally,” she said. “I purposely take my students to conferences that are internationally based so that they can see who their competition is.”

One such conference is Experimental Biology, one of the largest diverse conferences in the country, which includes thousands of attendees every year, with invited speakers and world-renowned scientists coming from different parts of the world.

“It’s an eye-opener for the students because they are able to see more than what we offer at TROY — not that we don’t offer everything — but we can’t be everything to everybody,” Dr. Jones said. “What we can do is open the doors of the world to our students, and when we open the doors to them, they are prepared.”

Through her mentorship, Dr. Jones has achieved a lot of success, but she highlights two stories that are both touching and unforgettable, involving her students reaching back and being appreciative of the impact she has made.

“As a faculty member, sometimes we make mistakes, but it might be that we don’t hear the good things,” Dr. Jones said. “But there was at least one instance that I know that was reported and it was with Blake Swicord. He took the time after he graduated to come back and was interviewed by the University, and he just spoke so well of me. It is something that is commendable when a student can reach back a year later and attribute part of their success to you and what you’ve done. It’s those moments that make me smile, and those moments that make me keep pushing.”

Some students went the extra mile of nominating Dr. Jones for a revered institutional award.

“Another moment was when I was nominated for the Ingalls Award twice,” Dr. Jones said. “To be nominated with my peers who are outstanding professionals was amazing. A student came to my office to say that he was specifically nominating me, and this was a student who was quiet and didn’t talk much when he came to my office, and for him to tell me why he was nominating me almost brought me to tears. A lot of times we don’t know as professors the impact we are making until someone comes and tells us, and it really means a lot to us because we don’t get it too often.”

Dr. Jones is currently involved in personal research studying techniques used in knocking out proteins found in abundant stages of prostate and breast cancer.

Her research has been funded and supported by the Faculty Developmental Program.

One of her hopes in the coming future is to see the success of more students she gets to mentor.

“I hope I am doing what I love and what I’m passionate about, which is mentoring students so that they can be successful, because I need them to be,” Dr. Jones said. “They are the future and the next generation that are going to be the doctors and the scientists. If COVID-19 [can teach] us anything, it should teach us that scientists are very important.”

Dr. Jones gained her Ph.D. studying integrated biosciences with a concentration in genetics and pathology from Tuskegee University and training from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She then left to continue her studies at the University of Michigan, and it was while she was there that she increased her expertise in bone cancer and also published work focused on prostate cancer and bone metastases.