When Jenifer Martin attended college in her native Southern California, she originally set out to become a social worker.
â€śI started out as a psychology major, but then I took a neuropsychology class and became fascinated with brain chemistry and physiology,â€ť says Martin, assistant professor
of biology at County College of Morris (CCM). She added biochemistry to her major at California State University, then went on to earn a masterâ€™s degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale.
When she graduated, she sought a position in biopharmaceutical research. Unable to find one, her brother-in-law, who worked at an art institute, suggested she fill a position there as a science teacher.
â€śI found that I really enjoyed teaching, so I began looking for academic positions,â€ť
While starting her teaching career at an art school, she discovered that her greatest hurdle â€“ and sense of accomplishment â€“ came from finding ways to reach students who did not typically â€śgetâ€ť science.
â€śTrying to reach creative people in more creative ways was a challenge,â€ť she admits. â€śBut it was gratifying to see students who struggled with science in the past come to understand it.â€ť
She says that being a teacher requires patience. â€śThere are times you think you are being very clear about a concept and you see a student who doesnâ€™t understand. You have to realize that not everybody thinks the same way. My class materials are constantly evolving so I can reach as many students as possible.â€ť She does that by
incorporating videos and podcasts into her courses, as well as spending time with students outside of class.
Science Career Creates Unique World View
A career in science has offered Martin a unique world view. â€śBiology is the study of life and thatâ€™s all around us. I have an eight-month-old child now and the new thought on
teaching your children anything like language is that talking to them helps them learn.â€ť
So she picks up flowers to show her daughter and talks about monocots, dicots and chemical elements, as only a science teacher would. Martin admits it might be an unusual approach to parenting, but quips, â€śI may have the only toddler out there who already knows some of the chemical elements!â€ť