Q&A with graduate student Bri Jones

Graduate student Bri Jones works in a lab.

Bri Jones is pursuing a PhD in Molecular Biosciences under the mentorship of Dr. Cynthia Haseltine, an associate professor in the School of Molecular Biosciences whose research interests include archaea and thermophiles, biochemistry and molecular mechanisms of DNA repair, and genome stability. Bri, who plans to complete her doctorate in 2024, has focused her research efforts on archaea, tiny organisms that can live in some of the most diverse and harsh environments on the planet.

Bri recently took some time to answer questions about her research and experiences at WSU.

What are you researching at WSU?

My research investigates DNA repair in the domain of life archaea. The archaeal domain is a big mix-match of single-cell organisms. Interestingly, they are more closely related to the eukaryotic domain of life (where humans belong), than to the bacterial domain and can live in the most diverse environments on Earth. The organisms I work with come from volcanically associated hot springs, like Yellowstone National Park. It’s interesting to study how these organisms can not only survive but thrive in such harsh environments especially as it relates to protecting their DNA from damage.

Why did you decide to complete your doctorate at WSU?

The Molecular Biosciences program had a lot of exciting research that interested me, and I felt I could be a part of a community here. I was also fortunate enough to receive a fellowship supported by the ARCS Foundation – a national organization whose mission is to advance science and technology through the financial support and mentorship of students who are working toward degrees in STEM. This fellowship assisted in making my fit with WSU that much cozier.

What has been your favorite thing about WSU?

This might sound silly, but I love the ice cream from Ferdinand’s. I am fortunate enough to work in a building next to Ferdinand’s creamery and regularly stop in to get a treat. Graduate school is a rewarding experience but can often be challenging and I believe a cone of ice cream can make many problems seem smaller. As a graduate student in STEM, I also appreciate and want to support the scientific endeavors of the food science programs on campus.

What about WSU has surprised you the most?

I was most surprised by the school spirit. I completed my bachelor’s degree at Arizona State (Fork ‘em, Devils!), which has a pretty big fan base, but I have found that WSU is on a whole other level. I remember being on a vacation with my family and seeing the amount of people in WSU gear or the people commenting on my dad’s hat. I think it’s pretty cool to feel the WSU community anywhere I go. I don’t think that you can say that about every school.

How has your mentor helped you?

My mentor has been the biggest asset in assisting in supporting my goals post-graduate school. She has provided and recommended opportunities that would assist in putting me in the most successful position for achieving my career goals. After receiving my doctorate, I hope to work in positions that relate to business development or quality assurance management – so positions not as a bench scientist. I have been fortunate enough to be supported while I complete an internship as well as other professional development opportunities that focused on scientific communication. I believe this experience has given me a more well-rounded education and skills I can relate to any future career in industry. I am very appreciative of my mentor and my graduate school experience.