Jennifer Higgins-Topolski recently entered the University of Notre Dame to begin working toward her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences.
Higgins-Topolski describes herself as the “kid who was interested in things most little girls are not. I spent a lot of time getting dirty, turning over rocks, looking through magnifying glasses and feeding insects to spiders.”
The 2011 PNC graduate has had an interesting journey to get to this point. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Foreign Language (German) with a minor in Psychology from Purdue Calumet in 2000. She took on a job with Union Township Middle School
that she enjoyed immensely. In time, she and her husband started a family.
But the Crown Point who now resides in Porter County’s Union Township was pulled back into the classroom to pursue her love of Biology. In 2011 Higgins-Topolski earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, graduating with Distinction.
“I also was blessed with some of the most incredible teachers throughout my entire education,” she said. “Most of all I found science and math teachers to be inspiring and supportive and this definitely continued to be the case at PNC.”
As a PNC student, Higgins-Topolski found her niche and began to shape her career aspirations. During her first year at PNC she found that she missed teaching. She decided to become a Biology professor.
“I thought this would reflect everything I loved,” she explained.
When she got involved in a molecular research project that she “really loved” her plans changed a bit. She now intends to balance lecturing with doing biological research.
While still at PNC, Higgins-Topolski set her sights on attending graduate school and committed herself to doing everything she could to become a successful candidate. She credits her PNC professors with helping her find opportunities on campus and off that would make her graduate application more stand out.
After graduation, she worked at PNC as a Limited-Term Lecturer, an experience that reaffirmed to her that teaching on a college campus was the career she wanted.
While finding time for extracurricular activities was difficult, she was a member of Delta Sigma Science Club, a founding member and officer for Ecology Club and a member of Beta Beta Beta, a National Biological Honor Society.
Off campus she participated in National Geographic’s BioBlitz and attended an Undergraduate Research Conference at Butler University to discuss her research.
As she reflects on her time at PNC, Higgins-Topolski credits the Biology Department faculty members with inspiring her, mentoring her and standing by her. She noted that they not only taught her in the classroom, but helped her find research opportunities, walked her through the graduate school application process and introduced her to professionals in the field.
“I am happy to have been influenced by so many outstanding people. I will always be connected to them professionally,” she said.
It’s been an exciting journey to get to this point and Higgins-Topolski looks forward to graduate school.
“It took a lot of hard work and long days from me and a lot of understanding from my family to finish my undergraduate work, but if a student is motivated, anything can be done. If a student actively participates in their education, there is a lot of potential for success.”
As she begins her studies at Notre Dame, Higgins-Topolski sees a clear path ahead, “I plan work in a lab that does research on mosquitoes, as they are hosts/vectors for the parasite which causes malaria. I plan to teach the subjects I love and continue to do research in a field that I hope has a positive impact on the world.”