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Jeanette Ferguson Ph.D.

During Women's History Month, Columbus State is profiling women professors in the STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medical) fields. Here, Biology Prof. Jeanette Ferguson, Ph.D., tells her story in her own words.

When I was 4 years old, my mother found me performing surgery on worms and realized I had an aptitude for biology.

When other girls were obsessing over outer appearances, I was reading about the inner workings of the body. Once I started school, I began participating in music and theatre. Even with my new love of the arts, I still focused on a career in Biology.

I started Ohio Northern University undeclared, but eventually decided to major in biology. I also took theatre classes, acting in many shows. I realized that I could combine my love of theatre and science by becoming a college professor. After graduating, I started the graduate program in Pathology at Ohio State.

Graduate school taught me to always ask questions and think outside of the box. I wanted to focus my research on the genetics of cardiovascular disease, but my department claimed it was impossible. I saw a commercial for the new OSU Heart and Lung Research Institute, wrote down the name of the lead researcher, emailed him, and ended up working at the Institute.

While in the middle of my research, I was diagnosed with oral cancer. Instead of quitting, I surrounded myself with an incredible support system and continued on. Shortly after I finished treatments, my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer. I wrote my dissertation while caring for her, and she proudly watched me walk across the stage to officially become Dr. Ferguson.

After graduate school, I spent a wonderful year as an adjunct teaching anatomy at Columbus State. I then earned a postdoctoral fellowship doing oral cancer research at Ohio State. I loved working on clinical trials to help other oral cancer patients, but never felt satisfied.

During my fellowship, my mom died. While raising her family, she had been slowly working towards a college degree and was close to graduation. Losing my mom helped me realize that you need to follow your passion, so I went back to teaching at Columbus State. Every time I look at my students, I see my mom, and it inspires me to help them to succeed.

 

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