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PhD Profile: Jennifer Greenwich

Jennifer Greenwich, Biology PhD candidate, sits down with the College of Science Graduate Program staff to talk about what it’s like to work and study at Northeastern University.

Describe your research.
In a general sense, I study how bacteria alter their physiology when they are in multicellular communities, known as biofilms, as opposed to alone. Specifically, I look at how nutrient starvation triggers changes in gene expression, which leads to different physiological responses and behaviors, including biofilm formation. Bacteria form biofilms on solid surfaces, including implanted medical devices, and are very difficult to eradicate, so learning more about their physiology can help us to develop novel treatment methods.

What is your favorite part about Northeastern?
I like the collaborative nature of the university. The biology department in particular has a wide breadth of research and it is not only interesting to learn about systems and organisms completely different from what I study, but also you never know when a fresh set of eyes will provide you with a solution. The co-op program encourages undergraduate research, which I also think is important and I love sharing what I do with motivated students!

Why did you choose Northeastern?
While the research being done is important, it was more the people that made me choose Northeastern. Everyone I met on interview day was incredibly friendly and helpful and again, the collaborative nature of the department and university as a whole was something I was looking for in a graduate program.

What is your favorite part of Boston?
As far as science goes, definitely the community! The Boston scientific community is unmatched. My favorite conference every year is a local meeting because I always meet new people (as well as see a lot of old friends) and learn something new. Outside of science, I think my favorite part of Boston is the Common on a spring day. I love just wandering around and people watching in the city. Also, the history. Growing up outside of Philadelphia, I appreciate the historical connection in Boston and it reminds me of home.

Are there any perks of being a Northeastern graduate student?
The exposure to so many different people and different types of research. Also, I can learn from the experiences that the undergraduate students get from co-op, whether it’s a new protocol or a contact.

What advice would you give to an incoming graduate student?
My advice to incoming graduate students would be to make sure you have a hobby. Something that you can do (either with other people or on your own) that gets you out of the lab or the library. I find that having a few things that I do off campus helps me stay grounded and centered when grad school life feels overwhelming. For me, I volunteer with the National Park Service at a National Historic Site in Cambridge. It forces me to not be in the lab for a day and allows me to interact with non-biologists. I love my fellow graduate students, but so often I feel like I’m in a bubble and it’s refreshing to have something that I committed to that gets me out of that bubble for a few hours a week.

What are your plans after degree completion?
I hope to do a post-doctoral fellowship and then pursue a tenure-track position in microbiology. I mostly just want to spread my love of science to anyone who will give me a platform, though.

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