Jackson Powell

Jackson Powell

"Become the role model I lacked."

College: Arts and Sciences
Degree Program: Ecology and Evolution
Degree: Doctorate

Award: McKnight Doctoral Fellowship (2016)


Video Credit: Enrique Toledo

Why FSU?
FSU was my number one choice to pursue a graduate degree in biological science because of the faculty fit, good lab space, and proximity to field sites.

Importance and impact of research
My research is important because it focuses on how the rate of adaptive evolution can be slowed by several factors, particularly multiple life stages (larvae and adults). The rate of adaptive evolution can be used to predict if populations will persist if the rate is fast enough to allow a population to evolve quickly enough to keep up with changes to the environment, such as an increase in temperature and a decrease in pH. Knowing what could influence the rate of adaptive evolution improves our understanding of which populations will remain intact in the future. Additionally, organisms with multiple life stages are rarely studied at all life stages in spite of their abundance (insects, crabs, sea urchins, oysters, marine gastropods, etc.).

Advice for anyone considering graduate school
Think of graduate school as an investment in yourself. It’s hard, but it doesn’t last forever. A career in academia or research does not have to be your focus to make your reason to pursue a graduate degree valid, but if it is, be sure to pursue a degree and field of study that is necessary for achieving your life goals. Do not attend graduate school because of pressure from others, even family and friends, because you are the one that has to do the work to succeed in it. Lastly, graduate school is less about how intelligent you are, and more about your RESOLVE and GRIT. You are guaranteed to make mistakes. How you overcome the challenges and mistakes is the key to finishing the degree.

Accomplishments during graduate career
Figuring out the life history of the animals I work on and developing a dissection and fertilization protocol and becoming competent at teaching a class because this isn't inherent just because you get a PhD. Going from an inexperienced diver with two recreational dives to an American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) authorized SCUBA diver that worked on coral reefs in French Polynesia. Being a mentor for the FSU FGLSAMP program and watching my mentees progress. Acquiring funds in excess of what my research initially required within my first three years (I'm a McKnight Doctoral Fellow). Though all PhD students that reach candidacy accomplish this, I am proud of passing my preliminary exams as well.

Career aspirations
I want to teach at the collegiate level. A long-term goal of mine is to see more minorities (Black males in particular) explore, engage, and pursue careers in the life sciences. I aspire to address public misconceptions of evolution as well.