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Olin Hall, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Graduate Career Services

Alumni Spotlight - Jenna Walton

Current Job Title -  Professional Research Assistant
Name of Organization -  Kinnamon Lab at the University of Denver
Undergraduate Degree -   B.S. Biological Sciences, B.S. Psychology, emphasis in Cognitive Neuroscience
Graduate Degree - M.S. Cellular and Molecular Biology


Jenna Walton 


What does your current position entail?

Our lab investigates the neurobiology of taste using various techniques of immunohistochemistry. I use both immunofluorescence and colloidal gold for electron microscopy to localize various proteins in the rodent taste bud to help identify key signaling effectors in taste transduction.

How did you get your current position?

I actually completed my master's degree with the Kinnamon Lab and, at the end of my program, Dr. Kinnamon asked if I would be interested in continuing my work for the remainder of the grant.

In relation to graduation, when did you start the job search and when did you secure your position?

I am in a bit of a unique situation as my job search was actually a search for more schooling. During my graduate school experience, I learned so much about science and the things that I liked about my field and the things I didn't like about my field and decided that I needed more education to get the job I really want. I began looking into various M.D./Ph.D, MSTP (Medical Scientist Training Program) and DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) programs around February (about 4 months prior to graduation). I decided to apply to Physical Therapy schools here in Colorado and start the formal interviewing process this February.

In regard to the job search process, did anything surprise you?

Not really.

What recommendations do you have for current students?

My biggest recommendation is to not be afraid of networking. Get involved in organizations that pertain to your area of work. Get your face out there so that your future employers know that you are committed and determined. It's amazing how many opportunities can arise when you simply put yourself out there!

What's the strangest interview question you were ever asked? How did you respond?

They have all been your standard interview questions for the most part. Except once I was asked if I was a dog or a cat person. I still haven't decided if this was a serious question or not (haha!) but I responded that it depended on my mood. When I'm feeling playful and energetic, I feel like I'm more of a dog person. But when I'm feeling lazy and just want to cuddle up on the couch, I feel like I'm more of a cat person.

Which aspects of your background have been most helpful in your current position?

Completing an M.S. in Biology that required completion of a formal thesis has given me such valuable and indispensable knowledge that has helped me succeed in my current position. In addition to the laboratory skills attained during graduate school, the critical thinking skills have proven most helpful to me. 

If you were in your graduate program again, what would you do differently, if anything?

I think that I would read more research papers outside of my field of study. I didn't realize until far into my program that so much can be gained from other literature. When you limit your search, you really do limit what you can learn and apply to your own work.

Any additional comments for current students?

Be sure to give it all you got! You only get out of it what you put into it, so really make it count!