Jennifer Wolny ’96 Shurtleff, M.S.
Biology | St. Petersburg, Fla.
When Jennifer Wolny Shurtleff left for college in 1992, she thought she was going to become a geneticist. Everything changed, however, when she enrolled in biology professor Jack Holt’s Plants, Protists and Fungi course, a precursor to today’s Systematic Biology class.
“I had never considered the world of botany before this class,” recalls Wolny, 37. “Once I did, I was hooked on the hidden complexity of chlorophyll-bearing organisms.”
That hook has led Wolny to an exciting career as a research faculty member at the University of South Florida, where she focuses on the bloom dynamics of harmful algae, often called red tides. Over the last several years, Wolny has been focusing on the use of remote-sensing technologies to track the movement of these harmful organisms. The goal is to one day be able to create what she calls “a bloom forecast.” Despite the enormity of the task, Wolny says she is still fascinated by the simplest elements of her field.
“Any time I get to observe phytoplankton with a microscope is exciting,” she says. “The intricate beauty of single-celled microscopic organisms is amazing.”
Wolny says almost every step of her academic experience at Susquehanna prepared her for the work she does today. While studying at the university, she was given the opportunity to conduct research alongside faculty members in the biology and earth and environmental sciences departments, which gave her a competitive advantage when seeking admission to graduate school.
“Above all else, I cannot say enough about Susquehanna’s commitment to ensuring its students know how to write for their chosen field,” says Wolny. “I left knowing how a scientific paper should be assembled and acquired the skills to do so. Now that I’m in a position to hire and supervise employees, interns and volunteers, I see so many young graduates that lack this skill and cannot effectively communicate even at the basic level, let alone at the professional level.”
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