GradStory: Microbiology Major Jameka Jefferson Graduates from Cal State University, Los Angeles in June

COMPTON — Jameka Jefferson has a “GradStory.” As a student at Whale Middle School, here, she developed a fascination for biology when her science teacher taught a class about cell function. The young girl who dreamed of being a basketball player knew at that moment she wanted to study biology.

Now, Jefferson, 21, is one step closer to a goal of a career in scientific research. She graduates in June with a bachelor of science in microbiology from California State University, Los Angeles. Not one to rest on her laurels, Jefferson is charging straight ahead to tackle the debilitating diseases that often cut life short for many people, and she has no fears.

“People usually scream and run away from infectious diseases. I am the one running toward them. I am going to go in a lab and do research and contribute to society,” she declared.

The aspiring research scientist is well on her way. In the fall, Jefferson will return to Cal State L.A. to pursue a master’s degree in microbiology with an emphasis on neurobiology.

Initially, Jefferson attended Los Angeles City College, where she participated in Bridges to the Future, a summer research program that prepares community college students for success in university science programs. She spent more than two months in a lab science course at CSULA. That experience fueled her passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Jefferson was on a quest and focused. In the fall of 2013, she transferred to CSULA, where she became active with the Minorities Opportunities in Research (MORE) and Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program. Funded by the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, the programs prepare aspiring students for the rigors of doctoral studies in STEM research. Jefferson was immersed in research that focused on identifying antibacterial inhibitors in E.coli.

Jefferson’s training enabled her to make impressive MORE AND LSAMP-sponsored scientific presentations to CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White, Cal State L.A. President William A. Covino, and former L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina. Jefferson said the experiences boosted her self-assurance.

“When it comes to presenting, I am fearless. Nothing can harm me,” she said.

Jefferson said her ultimate goal is to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where said she will be able to “study infectious diseases and contribute to the public good.”