Headshot of Jett DuVal
“At first research was a hobby, and then I realized, ‘wow, I could actually do this as a career,’” says DuVal, who will take her passion to the next level in June.
Research experiments lead to career discovery for biology major Jett DuVal
Dec 05, 2023, by Emma Bartlett
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As a first-generation student who enjoyed biology, Jett DuVal’s time learning lab techniques, working under the fume hood, and mentoring others unearthed her desire for a career in research. Confident yet humble about her research and achievements at Bryant, the Biology major has spent the past four years fine-tuning her lab skills so she can one day teach undergraduates like herself.

She will now take her passion to the next level in June when she starts working with the University of Georgia’s Christine Symanski, Ph.D., on developing an antibiotic for a rare neurological disorder that can be caused by a pathogen that induces food poisoning.

Navigating life beyond high school

Hailing from Massachusetts, DuVal planned on taking a gap year after twelfth grade to attend a Brazil-based program where she would work with turtles; however, due to the pandemic’s outbreak, the program was canceled, and DuVal quickly considered her alternative options. Having applied to several schools, she continued her educational journey at Bryant.

During the spring semester of her first year, Professor of Biological and Biomedical Sciences Christopher Reid, Ph.D., invited DuVal to take part in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) program where she would conduct research on fungi.

“Being a first-generation college student, I had absolutely no expectations of college, which is why I tried so many new things to get the most out of the experience,” says DuVal, who jumped at Reid’s offer.

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Still feeling lost during her sophomore year, DuVal suffered academically; however, when she resumed her summer research with Reid where she worked on discovering new ways to combat the rising problem of deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria, she found herself bitten by the research bug.

“At first research was a hobby, and then I realized, ‘wow, I could actually do this as a career,’” says DuVal, who upped her game academically and received all A's her junior year.

DuVal has gone on to present her research at the Rhode Island SURF conference, Bryant’s Day of Understanding, and REDay where, last year, she won the School of Health and Behavioral Sciences Director’s Award. She has also presented at several conferences and, come the spring, will share her findings on antibiotic-resistant bacteria at the American Chemical Society National Conference for Chemistry in New Orleans.

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“It's really awesome knowing how tight knit the science community is,” DuVal says, noting how she’s met and networked with undergraduates and researchers from across the country. “Sharing my work and saying, ‘I did that’ is really rewarding.”

Finding her campus support network

Community has played a central role in DuVal’s college experience. As someone who likes trying new things, DuVal got involved with Best Buddies, Bryant Skateboarding Club, ultimate frisbee, rugby, and lacrosse. She’s a sorority member, resident assistant, and works in the university’s Douglas and Judith Krupp Library and Art Barn.

She notes that Bryant has a strong science community where connections with professors can assist with locating opportunities beyond the Smithfield campus.

“They know the ins and outs of how to succeed,” DuVal says, noting that faculty mentors helped her navigate the graduate school process and secure a research position at the University of Georgia.

Come June, DuVal will assist Symanski in developing an antibiotic for campylobacter jejuni, the world’s most common food poisoning-inducing pathogen, which can provoke a rare neurological disorder. While conducting this work, DuVal hopes to earn her Ph.D. in either glycobiology or molecular biology and, later on, become a college professor.

Looking back at her achievements from the last four years, DuVal leaves parting advice to those who are still finding their way.

“You don't have to have it figured out,” DuVal says. “Your path will find you.”

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