An undergraduate chemistry major in the Class of 2025, Jazmin Garcia is from Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
Why chemistry? Throughout all my years in school, I’ve always been the type of student to ask a million questions and wonder, “Why”? In Chemistry, there is always something new to learn about how the world works. While I struggled to find purpose in the other majors I explored, chemistry confronted me immediately and challenged the very basis of who I was and what I knew.
There’s no day I feel like I’ve mastered it all, and I love how daring science can be. Chemistry can be beautiful and surprising, and I love connecting these stray puzzle pieces and realizing how much more there is to assemble.
Career goals? My goal after undergrad is graduate school, but I’m not quite sure what I’d like to focus my studies on. I love to be in the lab and work on synthesis, so I think my future research will involve a balance of that.
What organizations/activities are you involved in on campus?
- The American Chemical Society chapter, where I serve as the Outreach Chair. I enjoy doing Outreach for the student chapter of the American Chemical Society because I can plan fun events and share all the cool things I’ve learned about science! It’s thrilling to show others something new and see their smiles as everything clicks.
- The Illinois Women’s Lacrosse Club, which I’ve been a part of since I started college. I also play soccer in my free time. I love playing lacrosse because it’s a lot like chemistry: you must have a plan of attack and act swiftly and precisely. You must be cautious and yet completely relentless in your approach. For me, sports are all about having fun and being invested in the sense of play, not the competition.
Talk about your experience as an undergraduate researcher. I joined Prof. Liviu Mirica’s group this past summer as part of the chemical biology side, where I’ve done synthesis and bio work with cells and Ki and Kd studies. Nowadays, I’ve been working more on synthesis and helping my grad student, Lali Gutierrez, as she works on a new reaction. I like working with Lali because she’s patient with me and respects me as a young scientist and individual.
Why did you get involved in research? Because I knew I didn’t want to stop learning chemistry after graduating from undergrad, so I started looking into the possibility of attending graduate school. Graduate school for chemistry is all about research, so I looked for labs to join to see if I liked research and to put myself in a prime position to apply for graduate school.
What do you like about it? I am very grateful to be part of the Mirica Group because I feel respected both in and outside the lab and get to do many things I would never see inside my classes. In the lab, I’m offered a lot of independence and entrusted with responsibilities that genuinely matter to the research, which helps me grow confident as a chemist. I feel comfortable around everyone in the lab, and there’s not a moment where I feel embarrassed to ask for help.
Why did you choose UIUC? Before college, and even for my first year and a half here, I had no idea what I wanted to do in the future. Yet, out of all the schools I had looked into, UIUC just felt right. This gut feeling was driven by the knowledge that, whatever field I chose, I would have a good education. UIUC is the type of university where opportunity does not end, and it’s up to you to define your educational experience through the obstacles you choose to face. UIUC offered me freedom, and I’m glad I accepted it.
Favorite class so far? My favorite chemistry class here at UIUC is CHEM 101, Introductory Chemistry! Everything you learn in CHEM 101 is simple and pure yet fundamental to all of Chemistry and science. CHEM 101 is the class that made me fall in love with Chemistry, and I’m grateful I decided to take a chance on STEM.
Favorite campus spot? The Irwin Indoor Football Facility. I love the feeling of playing on turf and have a lot of good memories of having lacrosse practice late there during the winter.
Favorite activity? One of my favorite activities is playing soccer with grads from the Mirica Group every week!
What didn’t you know about UIUC before becoming a student? I didn’t know how good of a research institution or how highly ranked UIUC was in chemistry. I feel very fortunate to have come to this university and have the opportunities I do now, almost on what feels like pure luck.
How have you found that sense of community on campus? I feel like I’ve found my family through chemistry and lacrosse. I’ve met some of my closest friends through my chemistry classes and being part of the lacrosse team. While I had trouble finding exactly where I fit in my first two years here, this year, I feel like I’ve found my niche and am happy with the things I do and the people I am surrounded by.