Jessamine Williams on how she came to study the bamboo preferences of the National Zoo's Giant Pandas:
I have been interested in science and nature for as long as I can remember. My love for the outdoors was spurred by camping trips with my family when I was young. At least two or three times a year we'd pack our canoe on the car and drive out into the Adirondack Mountains for a weekend away. Through these trips I gained an aesthetic appreciation for nature, which was later grounded by basic scientific facts I learned from enthusiastic teachers at school.
By the time I graduated from high school and enrolled at Georgetown University, it only seemed natural that I'd begin my college career as a biology major. For my first two years at Georgetown I was convinced that I wanted to attend medical school and become a physician. However, my outlook changed after I spent the fall semester of my junior year in Auckland, New Zealand. While abroad I had the opportunity to spend almost every weekend hiking and camping, and I was reminded of how much I loved being outdoors. Furthermore, New Zealand is a very environmentally conscious country, and I found myself becoming more and more interested in conservation programs both in the United States and abroad.
When I returned to Georgetown University in January,
2001, I began the process of searching for a Senior
Thesis research project and mentor. I knew I wanted
to spend my time working on a project relating to conservation,
rather than biomedical or genetic research, but I wasn't
sure what opportunities were available in the DC area.
A professor at Georgetown put me in touch with David
Powell at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park,
and here I am today-running the Giant Panda Bamboo Preference
Study. This semester I have also enrolled in many Conservation
Biology and Environmental Science courses, and I hope
to pursue this line of research in the future.