Full life, vital research mark scientist's career

Harford woman to speak at women's history event

February 16, 2003|By Jennifer Blenner | Jennifer Blenner,SUN STAFF

Jennifer Weeks Sekowski of Forest Hill has accomplished what few have by their early 30s: She has made breakthrough discoveries in science, won numerous awards and has a loving family. And because of her many accomplishments, she has been selected to be a speaker at the 19th annual Women's History Month luncheon March 2 in Edgewood.

"I feel really blessed," she said. "I've been able to accomplish everything that I wanted."

It was at college that her interest in science flourished. She attended University of Pennsylvania, where she studied neuroscience and did some research. She went on to the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where she received her doctoral degree in cellular and molecular biology.

She was one of the recipients of a predoctoral fellowship to do breast cancer research. "It fell into my lap," she said. "I was doing DNA replication." She always wondered what made breast cancer cells more prone to make mutations in DNA, she added.

Through her research she made a breakthrough discovery about the mechanism of breast cancer. "We found a protein called PCNA that is uniquely altered in breast cancer cells," she said.

In 2000, she became a molecular toxicologist at the Army's Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, where she studies the effects of low-level environmental chemicals.

"Basically, I met my current boss through a collaboration at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. My boss was looking for someone with skills like mine," Sekowski said. She said working for the Army gives her an opportunity to give back to the country and do further research to help soldiers and civilians.

In her free time, Sekowski volunteers for Kids and Chemistry, a scientific-outreach program. She and other scientists bring hands-on experiments to 9- to 12-year-olds in Harford County elementary schools.

Her other joy in life comes when she walks in the door from work every day to see her son, Noah, 3, and daughter, Eva, 1. She said having children is challenging, but her husband, Daniel, takes care of the children so she can continue to work.

The Women's History Month Luncheon will be held from 12:15 p.m. to 4 p.m. March 2 at the Richlin Ballroom, 1700 Van Bibber Road, Edgewood. The cost is $20. Reservations must be made by Feb. 24. Karen Tegges, 410-638-4444.

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