Many people come to college and see it as just a place where they will spend the next four years of their lives. They go to classes, study and hang out, but never get involved with any of the many activities, clubs or organizations that the university has to offer. Then there are people like Dr. Jenna Buckwalter ’10, an alum who used her time at Millersville University (MU) as a springboard to launch her career.
At MU, Buckwalter was a member of the women’s basketball team while majoring in molecular biology with a dual minor in biochemistry and coaching. Constantly running from classes to practices to workouts to labs didn’t leave her with much downtime. However, while juggling being a student and an athlete, one always made her better at the other. Playing basketball at the Division II level for an established program like Coach Mary Fleig’s, Buckwalter had to earn playing time and work on her game.
“I learned the importance of dedication, hard work, perseverance, team work and leadership. These attributes served me well on the court, in the classroom, and in my professional and personal life,” says Buckwalter.
Buckwalter graduated from Penn State Hershey College of Medicine in 2016 with a doctorate in Genetics.
Currently a postdoctoral scholar at Penn State Hershey College of Medicine, Buckwalter is continuing her research under the advisement of a principal investigator (PI). A PI has their own funding and provides mentorship for her research and in writing grants to earn her own funding. Once she has her own grants, Buckwalter can start her lab at a research institution.
Her research focuses on the role of key transcriptional regulators in bladder cancer. The goal of her studies is to increase the understanding of how these factors contribute to the establishment of malignant tumors, and to determine the suitability of targeting this transcriptional complex for disease management.
“What I find exciting about research is you’re the first person to often prove an ideal or theory. Some may have thought it could be true, but your work actually proves it to be true. Other times you’re the first to discover something nobody knew or even thought of before, says Buckwalter.
Buckwalter credits Dr. Carol E. Hepfer, professor of genetics, cell and molecular biology as being one of her mentors at MU. She has returned twice to give seminars to students and faculty since graduating and enjoys catching up with everyone in the department.