Name: Jonathan Harrison

Field of Study: Biochemistry (B.S.) and Theology and Religious Studies; Minor: Mathematics and Certificate in Pastoral Ministry

Status: Undergraduate student  

Graduation Year: 2021

Hometown: Elkridge, Maryland

Why did you choose Catholic University? The deciding factor that made me choose to attend Catholic University was the amazing sense of community I experienced every time I visited. I felt how everyone was welcoming and supportive of each other, both in their classes and throughout everything else. Incidentally, all three times I visited Catholic University, it was raining, but the community I felt here was never dampened by the rain. Throughout my time here I have continually felt this community and I can see how it has helped me grow and become a stronger Catholic, friend, and student.

"When I think of what makes Catholic University unique, I think of three main things: our community, our Catholic identity, and the diversity of opportunities available."
– Jonathan Harrison

What activities have you been involved with? At Catholic University I have gotten to be involved in a wide range of activities which have truly enhanced my great experience here. Throughout all of these activities I have gotten to meet many students in our community and be engaged in a diverse number of ways. As a two-year Student Government Association Senator, I have been able to advocate for student needs through legislation. As the two-year President of Chemistry Club, I have gotten to build our niche club to do fun chemistry beyond the classroom (yes, there surprisingly is such a thing as fun chemistry). As a part of Habitat for Humanity, I have gotten to help build homes here in the DMV [District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia], in Mobile, Ala., and in Bend, Ore., as well as lead an amazing trip to San Diego, Calif. I also planned a trip to Peru that unfortunately had to be canceled last summer. As a student leader, I served as a House Minister for one year and currently am serving in my second year as a Resident Assistant. Throughout all of these activities, I have enjoyed getting to go outside of my comfort zones and try new things while at the same time getting to meet some of my best friends.

Favorite course: One of my favorite courses I’ve taken is Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Geometry. I came into the course not sure what to expect, but interested to learn more about Euclidean geometry, which was only about the first month. My favorite part of the course ended up being the Non-Euclidean geometry. It challenged me to think critically, to not accept something as true just because someone said it was true, but to work through a problem myself. It taught me how to let a question stew in my mind and come back to it later. When I was stumped, I learned to not be afraid to look at a problem from many different perspectives. I found myself using this way of thinking in my chemistry and theology courses and the lessons I have learned in this course have been applicable throughout my life.

What are your goals for the future? My most immediate goal for the future is to attend a Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) and obtain my M.D./Ph.D. I hope to obtain my M.D./Ph.D to be able to pursue patient-driven research. My goal is to be able to do research that directly benefits the lives of the patients I see — I want to balance the real-life situations of medicine with advanced research to directly better people’s lives. My overall life-long goal is to be a Catholic scientist. I want to live my life as a Catholic in the world of science, where my faith is in harmony with my science. My goal is to live as a witness to the Catholic faith through how I pursue science, treat other people, and live a life of service.

Is there a faculty or staff member who has made a significant impact on you? Biochemistry professor Dr. Greg Miller has made a significant impact on my time here at Catholic as well as my career goals. My sophomore year I started doing research in Dr. Miller’s lab, which opened my eyes to what research was really like. Dr. Miller would assist me in developing my research questions and techniques, but would leave me to work through the details of the experiments. He also helped me understand the importance of seeing the big picture of the research I was doing. It was through my research experience with Dr. Miller that my interest in a career in research sparked. He then helped me get a summer research internship at the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and I have now been accepted to a two-year research post-baccalaureate position at a lab in the NIDDK. This all started with my research experience with Dr. Miller.

What makes Catholic University unique? When I think of what makes Catholic University unique, I think of three main things: our community, our Catholic identity, and the diversity of opportunities available. Our community of love and support has helped me grow and develop as a person throughout my time at Catholic. Our Catholic identity permeates into all elements of our University life, from Mass and adoration to our classes, even my science classes. At no other college could I imagine such a diversity of opportunities available to students, from countless service opportunities to academic clubs to student leadership, there are so many opportunities for all Catholic University students.

Awards/recognition: I received the College Chemistry Achievement Award from the Chemical Society of Washington (a local affiliate of the American Chemical Society) for a senior majoring in chemistry or biochemistry. This award recognizes outstanding achievement in chemistry and/or biochemistry courses and experience in pursuing a career relating to chemistry/biochemistry.

Proudest accomplishment: I am most proud to have helped contribute to the Catholic University community — to help lead people in service and to help my classmates grow both academically and in their relationship with Christ. More so than any program, event, achievement, or GPA, I am most proud of helping contribute to the Catholic University community where everyone is encouraged to both live a lifetime of serving others and grow in their faith throughout their daily life.

Is there particular experience that exemplifies what Catholic University means to you? An experience that exemplifies what Catholic University means to me was the Habitat for Humanity trip to San Diego last March, which I helped lead. In particular, I remember my experience when we found out that classes were going to be transitioned online. To me, Catholic University means community, faith, and service. When we got this challenging news, we were on the work site helping with the houses in downtown San Diego. We came together as the group of 18 students who were there to be together and to support each other. We knew it was challenging, but we also knew we could count on everyone else on the trip. Then, we came together for a prayer to help us place our trust in the Lord through the beginning of so much uncertainty to come. Lastly, we went back to work. We knew we were in San Diego to help Habitat for Humanity with building these homes, so we kept working. When I think of Catholic University, I think of community, faith, and service, and this experience exemplifies all three of these during some very challenging times.