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Class of 2021: College of Sciences Banner Carrier Plans to Apply Biochemistry as a Future Doctor

By Tiffany Whitfield

Jubilee Benedict's interest in biochemistry was sparked by a desire to help people like her younger brother, who has neurofibromatosis. Seeing her brother fight to live with this debilitating illness, which causes brain tumors, influenced her decision to become a doctor one day.

The graduating senior is well on her way; she was selected to carry the banner for the College of Sciences during commencement.

"I am very excited and honored that ODU chose me to be the banner carrier," said Benedict. As she nears the end of her college journey, she has her sights set on applying biochemistry in the medical field both personally and professionally.

Originally from Japan, Benedict lived in Taiwan and New York before her family settled down in Virginia Beach. She graduated with honors from Bayside High School with a 4.2 GPA. Her older sister received a nursing degree from ODU, and Benedict wanted to follow in her footsteps and be a Monarch, too. As one of four children, attending an affordable college was paramount for her family. "ODU offered me a lot of great financial aid, and I received the ODU Presidential Scholarship which I am very grateful for," Benedict said.

Benedict did not waste time diving into her studies and research once she started at ODU.

"My first two years at ODU really confirmed my decision, as I loved that chemistry has so many applications to the real world," Benedict said. "I found that biochemistry allowed me to integrate the knowledge of living systems as well as pursue my interest in chemistry, which fit really well with both my goals and interests."

Choosing a rigorous major such as biochemistry.

"I fell in love with chemistry from the first chemistry class I took here at ODU," Benedict said. "It was so interesting to see the equations and theories that you learn in chemistry class being shown firsthand in a laboratory."

For Benedict, chemistry was constantly engaging because it required more than memorization. The know-how to understand and apply concepts and theories to the real world is necessary.

Benedict has not only enjoyed the educational ecosystem at ODU but has also been involved in clubs and organizations both on and off campus. She works part-time in the Math and Science Resource Center as a chemistry tutor and is a member of the pre-health club.

She found time to intern with the Virginia Beach Rescue Emergency Medical Services, which is the largest volunteer-based EMS department in the United States. For two years Benedict volunteered as an EMT at station nine, located in the Pembroke area.

"I worked with all kinds of volunteers," said Benedict. She worked one weekend a month because she wanted fewer distractions during the weekday so she could focus on schoolwork.

Benedict carefully managed her time between off-campus responsibilities and on-campus research.

"The professors I have encountered at ODU really go above and beyond to help and encourage their students to succeed," Benedict said. "The relatively small number of undergraduate students in the chemistry and biochemistry majors allowed me to take advantage of great research opportunities, as well as get help from my teachers and advisors."

Silvina Pagola, research assistant professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry, has had a direct influence on Benedict's time at ODU.

"I am especially grateful to Dr. Pagola for helping guide me through my first research project at ODU," Benedict said. "She is a great role model who has a very kind spirit, patience and went out of her way to help me understand the research."

"Jubilee Benedict is a talented undergraduate student in the department of chemistry and biochemistry," Pagola said. "As part of her CHEM125 four-weeks research work in the spring of 2019, she used public access databases to investigate the chemical structures, physicochemical properties and the medicinal uses of a series acidic and basic solids."

Benedict designed reactive multidrug combinations. Her work led to a publication in "Acta Crystallographica Section C," which describes the structure, synthetic chemistry and some properties of the new material in medicinal uses. According to Pagola, this published work will enhance Benedict's applications for medical school or jobs.

Benedict also took part in research in the lab of James Lee, professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry. Her research focused on bioenergetics and biological membrane transport.

"Specifically, my focus was the transport of calcium ions through biological membranes and the improvement of measurements of proton motive force," Benedict said. "At the end of my research, I was able to estimate an equilibrium constant for calcium to be used in further research, with my results supporting the localized coupling of biological membranes hypothesis as proposed by Dr. Lee."

After her December 2021 graduation, Benedict plans to take a gap semester and return to Taiwan before starting medical school. She's been accepted into Eastern Virginia Medical School through ODU's Bachelor of Science Doctor of Medicine (BSMD) program.

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