When you first meet Jasmine Hatcher, there is a good chance you will be immediately drawn in by her broad smile and enthusiasm for science.
Hatcher, who first came to the Lab in 2005 as a summer student through the Office of Educational Programs (OEP), has been doing research with James Wishart’s team in the Chemistry Department. She recently won a $126,000 three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship to continue her studies at the City University of New York (CUNY). The grant is the most prestigious award for graduate study in the field of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It also earned Hatcher the esteemed title of “CUNY All-Star.”
Wishart, who himself was a NSF Fellow at Stanford from 1980 to 1983, said that once he met Hatcher he knew she was going to be an excellent scientist.
“Her enthusiasm, willingness to learn, and keen sense to detail made her exceptional,” said Wishart. “I already had a working research relationship with Professor Sharon Lall-Ramnarine, Hatcher’s mentor at Queensborough Community College, so I encouraged Hatcher to take a part-time research position at Brookhaven while Lall-Ramnarine encouraged her to keep working toward a graduate degree. We recognized her ambition and talent.”
But chemistry wasn’t in Hatcher’s original study plan. “I always say that chemistry chose me,” she said. “I originally wanted to be a nurse, but once I came to Brookhaven I became thoroughly intrigued by the wonders of science and I got hooked.”
Working with Wishart and his team at Brookhaven, Hatcher became proficient in purifying ionic liquids — salts that are in a liquid state. Gaining an understanding of how ionic liquids work may lead to processes that help sort and safely dispose of nuclear waste.
“Understanding the radiation chemistry of ionic liquids is essential for development of their applications in radioactive material processing and safe storage,” said Wishart. “Jasmine is doing vital work in this field and she is the perfect researcher to undertake the task of getting it done.”
Hatcher is currently working on research that will remove technetium (99Tc) from radioactive waste, allowing the waste to be stored safely for many years. 99Tc is a major product of uranium and plutonium fission in nuclear power reactors and from weapons production during the Cold War. It has a half-life of 213,000 years, making safe storage an important issue now and for future generations. (99Tc should not be confused with technetium-99m, which was developed for medical use at Brookhaven Lab and has become a widely used radioisotope for imaging diseased organs and diagnosing heart disease.)
Hatcher earned her associate degree from Queensborough Community College and her B.S. in chemistry from Queens College, where she worked with Professor Robert Engel on electrochemistry of ruthenium and platinum compounds.
She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at Hunter College, where her research will continue to focus on technetium under the mentorship of Lynn Francesconi.
After completing the Community College Internship in the summer of 2005, Hatcher returned to the Lab as a member of the 2006 Faculty and Student Team and the 2007 Summer Undergraduate Lab Internship programs sponsored by OEP.
“This is a true success story,” said Kenneth White, manager of the Office of Educational Programs. “Jasmine joined us as a Department of Energy-funded community college student intern and is now pursuing a Ph.D. Her story exemplifies why we run internship programs and the outcomes we look for — nurturing a highly capable student into a highly competent researcher solving important challenges for the country.”
With funding from the Lab’s Diversity Office and Chemistry Department, Hatcher was able to work as a chemistry research associate from 2009 to 2012. She is currently a guest research assistant. “Jasmine’s accomplishments are a direct result of dedicated mentors and a supportive learning environment.” said Shirley Kendall, manager of the Lab’s Diversity Office. “This demonstrates the importance of successful partnerships both inside and outside of the Laboratory.
“I am grateful to all of my mentors for their guidance and support,” said Hatcher. “So far, it’s been an incredible ride and I’m looking forward to the future.”
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