Victoria High grad beats out Ivy-League rivals in Department of Energy competition
Dec. 21, 2010 at 6:21 a.m.
Jennifer Robles Chancellor, a 35-year-old Victoria High School graduate, drew on theater and dance experience to win $10,000 at a November U.S. Department of Energy competition.
"It took a lot of work," she said. "I had to learn all these techniques and study background information. It's a lot of everything you learn at school, and then I learned stuff I hadn't learned at school yet."
Chancellor, who now studies biochemistry and forensics at Texas A&M - Kingsville, beat nearly 100 competitors, including some from Ivy League schools, with her research and presentation.
The research detects radiation sensitivity in people who have genetic mutations.
Chancellor found a way to use proteins that would glow green to show if a cell was normal. The research was essential because people with severe combined immunodeficiency often need bone marrow transplants and use radiation to make the process more effective.
"Those individuals with this mutation can't tolerate the radiation that comes before the bone marrow transplant," she said.
Chancellor, a 1993 Victoria High School graduate, studied choir, theater and dance.
She later moved to Houston, started a family and waited tables to make ends meet before deciding to study science.
"I realized what I was doing was not going to take me anywhere," she said. "I need to do something to take care of myself and my daughter."
She decided to pursue medicine and science, but her love of the stage never left.
"When I go up on stage in my mind I think, 'I want you to look at me, and I want you to pay attention because I have something you want to hear,'" she said.
That same attitude combined with a competitive spirit guided her winning with her presentation.
"I'm a competitive person, and if I'm going to compete I'm going to win," she said. "I study everything. I practiced what I was going to say, standing in front of nothing, acting. When I went there I pulled everything together."
Chancellor is a single mother and hopes to eventually get a master's degree in forensics. She wants to someday work as a medical examiner.
"I wanted to find a way where I could put law and medicine together," she said. "I believe my purpose in life is to help that, and I felt the best way to do it was solving crimes using science."
She now lives in Corpus Christi and still keeps up her skills. Recently she performed in a Corpus Christi "Cats" musical production and sings karaoke regularly.
"If I get a chance and I'm not busy with school I will audition for plays," she said. "I still go to karaoke, and if there's talent shows around I'll do talent shows."