From the lab to lesson plans – meet the new assistant professor of biology

Sep 19, 2017
Jenifer Leming Biology
Jenifer Leming in office

Jenifer Leming has spent many years in a lab researching science, but now you’ll find her at the front of the classroom teaching.

Leming started at Newman University this fall as an assistant professor of biology and is co-teaching general biology and genetics courses. She has an impressive background in science and will take on a cellular and molecular biology course next semester.

In 2013, she earned bachelor’s degrees in both chemistry and biology from St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana. She spent the summers of 2013 and 2014 working internships in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in medicinal chemistry and biology. Her focus was on developing pharmaceuticals for cancer patients.

In August 2017, Leming received a doctorate in biological sciences with a focus in cancer biology from the University of Notre Dame. While at Notre Dame, she worked as a cellular biologist in Dr. Reginald Hill’s lab at the Harper Cancer Research Institute. During that time she worked to resolve chemoresistance in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, a type of pancreatic cancer.

She explained her interest in cancer research to be two-fold; first was her fascination with cells and their dictation of life and second, her desire to help others with her gifts. Through the mentorship of her uncle, Dr. Tomi Sawyer, a distinguished scientist at the pharmaceutical company Merck, she realized cancer research was the best way to marry the two.

She is passionate about the subject and is already planning to bring a similar research project to students next semester in her cellular and molecular biology course.

“The goal for the lab section will be to get students in the tissue culture hoods handling these cells so that they can actually run experiments used every day in cancer research,” Leming said. She has already started practicing lab experiments she has planned for the spring course. 

Although Leming had an interest in science from a young age, she found herself falling in love with teaching only a few years ago.

“At some point while I was a grad student I realized that while I liked science, I didn’t want to spend all my time in a lab constantly, which was what I was doing. I instead found out that when they put me in front of a class I really enjoyed it. So I love teaching a lot more than I loved research,” she said.

She agrees she is living a bit of a charmed life coming from a brand new research facility at Notre Dame and now getting to work in the new Bishop Gerber Science Center (BGSC). Leming is excited about the interactive and productive work spaces BGSC provides.

Her favorite space is room 104, where TV screens hang above each work station and one large screen is displayed at the front of the classroom.

Leming said, “While student’s are working on problems, they can cast it up to their individual television screens so I can see what all of them are doing. If a particular group is doing a great job, I can even get them to take their answer and throw it up on the big screen.”

Leming is eager to get more involved in the campus and community once she settles in. She said, “I love it at Newman. The students are really wonderful and I love working with the biology faculty.”

Leming has been in Catholic institutions for the entirety of her higher education career and said, “I love being in a place where science and religion meet. They don’t have to contradict each other, they can complement each other quite nicely.”