Jasmine Hunt will be the first to say that she has problems selling herself to other people.
And things get even more convoluted when she tells others that her majors are in chemistry and in religious studies, both in Arts & Sciences — two areas of research that could be construed as polar opposites.
But they have at least one thing in common — they are perfect disciplines for people with questioning natures.
“I have always wanted to know ‘why,'” Hunt says. “I was interested in science, but also I was always a questioning person. I was never one who believed something just because the Sunday School teacher said it, or someone else told it to you. I have to know why.
“To me, chemistry was the smallest you can break things down, and religion is the motivation for so many people — even those who aren’t religious — it still affects their choices.”
When you get right down to it, Hunt didn’t particularly have her eye on Washington University after high school. She had played volleyball in Normal, Ill., and captained the two-time state champions.
So her first choice was to try to play at an NCAA Division I school. But that involves the aforementioned selling herself to others.
“I had tried the D-I recruiting thing and it wasn’t appealing,” she says. “I didn’t like selling myself to people, and the schools that were interested weren’t great academically.
“But I’m from Normal, Ill., and I wanted to be as far away from home as I could. And my mom started having a panic attack and said, ‘Why don’t you look at WashU?’
“I had never heard of the school, but she’s an admissions officer at Illinois State (University), so she knew these things.”
After one visit to the Hilltop Campus, Hunt knew this was where she wanted to be.
It took a little longer, though, for her to discover exactly what she wanted to be doing while she was here.
Arts & Sciences
“I knew that I wanted to be a chemistry major,” she says. “I came in here as pre-med, and halfway through realized I didn’t want to be a medical student because I wanted to do more research.
“Then I started taking Christianity classes and it developed from there. I started learning about Islam, too, and it turned into another major.
“I don’t think I would have gotten through school with just majoring in chemistry. Sometimes it can make you crazy.”
In the fall, Hunt will be attending the University of California, Santa Barbara, aiming for a doctorate in biochemistry, where she will be working with renowned biochemists Craig Hawker and Luc Jeager to combine synthetic and biological polymers.
It will be a continuation of her work here, where she was in the lab of Karen L. Wooley, Ph.D., professor of chemistry. Wooley specializes in nanoparticle research, and Hunt developed cross-linkers for molecules that hopefully one day will be used to deliver chemotherapeutic agents through the bodies of cancer patients.
And the volleyball thing? Turns out that even though she didn’t play Division I like she had originally hoped, she managed to make a go of it just the same. In fact, she won a national championship here in her junior year and captained the team her senior season.
“Jasmine’s grasp of our systems of play and strategies made her an invaluable asset to the team,” says head volleyball coach Rich Luenemann. “When she was on the floor, it was akin to having a coach on the court.
“In her role as a captain, Jasmine provided exemplary leadership skills. She embodies the best of both worlds — she’s both incredibly brilliant and a superior athlete.”
So it’s safe to say that everything worked out pretty well, considering her knowledge of the University one month before her first visit.
“I grew up in a small town,” she says. “My brother and I were the only black kids in the whole private school, and everyone was the same kid — all upper-middle class, everyone’s parents worked at State Farm Insurance. It was like everyone was the same — either Catholic or Protestant, no different ever.
“Coming here really exposed me to a whole lot of issues I had never even thought about. It’s not like I didn’t have an opinion; I just never thought about them. That’s what I’ll take away the most.”
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