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Jennifer Atchison: Lifelong Learner

It's no surprise that Drexel's well-known reputation as a center for engineering education draws many students to the university. What is unique, however, are the varied experiences that students have while getting their engineering degrees at Drexel and the diverse backgrounds from which the students come.

Ph.D. student Jennifer Atchison first came to Drexel as an Electrical Engineering major while she was working as an electronics technician in the U.S. Navy. She was extremely interested in learning how the electronic devices she worked on in the U.S. Navy actually functioned. After one year into her electrical engineering courses, she took her first materials course and had a pleasant surprise.

"The materials course that I took was exciting and very interesting. Best of all, the professor started talking about how the microsctructure of materials affected the properties, such as conductivity. He also introduced failure analysis and used case studies to illustrate the importance of understanding why materials fail. I loved the course and quickly changed my major," Jennifer says.

After completing her B.S. in MSE, Jennifer spent time working at a small firm doing failure analysis followed by employment at JDS Uniphase as a reliability engineer. As she continued to develop her professional career, she started a family. Eventually, she found herself back at Drexel.

"I came back to Drexel as a graduate student for many of the same reasons that I chose Drexel for my undergraduate degree. I felt comfortable here, and I did not want to leave the Philadelphia area because my children were still in high school. Besides, Drexel University has the best engineering program in the Delaware Valley," she says.

Throughout the course of her education, Jennifer certainly has been using all the advantages that Drexel's MSE program has to offer, including face time with professors and hands-on experience in top-notch laboratories, facilities, and equipment to facilitate research. Her current research, under the advisement of Dr. Jonathan Spanier, focuses on combining Forster Resonance energy Transfer (FRET) microscopy with the Atomic Force Micrscope, which allows for single molecule FRET studies on the surface of cells and inorganic materials systems. The FRET process enables microscopists to see changes in biological molecules, in the form of fluorescent light. This research technique has applications for cancer research and the fundamental understanding of surface chemistry.

"I love the research that I'm doing. I plan to continue my research and teach one day."

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Last updated Friday, June 6, 2008