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Few encounter a fer-de-lance snake and walk away unscathed. While working in Costa Rica recent School of Biological Sciences (SBS) graduate Jordan Herman (PhD’20) moved closer to observe a toucan dismembering the green iguana it was having for lunch. When the bird took off and dropped half of it, Herman picked up the iguana’s tail and realized she had nearly stepped on the coiled and camouflaged pit viper at her feet. As the bird returned to finish its meal, Herman stood still, suddenly stuck between an intimidating toucan and the venomous snake. She escaped the dangerous situation by offering up the tail and backing away slowly.
For Herman, this moment earned her “a new appreciation for how cool and terrifying nature can be.”
Herman originally came to the SBS graduate program in 2014 from the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. Her research has been focused on the fitness consequences that mockingbirds experience when they are co-exploited, how the co-occurring parasites interact with each other, and the roles that host defenses play in these species interactions.
Now a post doctoral fellow in the Clayton-Bush lab, Herman thrives in the outdoors and has always been captivated by birds. While working as a field assistant in the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, she became hooked on parasitic nest flies and their endemic bird hosts. This interest, in turn, brought her to Argentina, where she worked on the effects of parasitic nest flies and brood-parasitic cowbirds on their shared host, the chalk-browed mockingbird.
Her passion for the outdoors extends to her adopted home of Utah. When she isn’t backpacking all over the Intermountain West, you can find her spending time in her Salt Lake City garden with her four chickens–Dotty, Penguin, Mungo, and Jerry. Currently, she and her partner Joey have also been treating themselves to sushi takeout from Sapa, a local Asian fusion restaurant where, she says, “you can still order mussel shooters!”
Outside of her research, Herman has also made a lasting impact in SBS where she is grounded in a close-knit community of biologists with wide-ranging research interests. As a mentor, she has soared by offering strong support and advice to those around her. “Jordan’s unwavering sense of self allows her to be a generous mentor,” explains fellow graduate student, Maggie Doolin (Dearing lab), “and one of the most consistent sources of truth and support I’ve encountered anywhere throughout my life. She is one-of-a-kind,” continues Doolin, “and I’m lucky to have had her welcome me to the SBS grad program for all things life and science.” When asked what the best advice Herman herself has received in graduate school, she replies, “Publish early!” You can find Herman’s publications in journals like Ecology and the Journal of Avian Biology.
Clearly an expert in field research, Herman uses her knowledge to give back to her community. “Given the amount of field research, field courses, and outdoor recreation that happens in SBS, our community has a major need for wilderness preparedness,” she says. This need gave rise to Herman’s involvement in developing the biennial subsidized Wilderness First Aid course which is available to students, faculty, and staff in the SBS. A future goal is to expand this program to more personnel across the College of Science.
Jordan Herman, PhD, is truly a force of nature. Next time you’re stuck between an intimidating toucan and a camouflaged pit viper, remember to ask yourself, WWJHD?: What would Jordan Herman do? The School of Biological Sciences is indebted to Jordan Herman. She will always have a place here among the wide variety of birds and lifelong friends nestled at the base of the Wasatch Mountains.
The College of Science's Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee promotes awareness and active practices to increase equity and inclusion on our campus, creating a welcoming environment for all members of our community. The committee serves in an advisory role to the Dean of the College of Science, facilitates communication and sharing of information among units and coordination with institutional priorities, and also pursues college-level initiatives to improve experiences and opportunities for students, faculty, and staff across the College.
2021-2022 Committee members:
Pearl Sandick, Dean’s Office (chair)
Julie Hollien, SBS
Shelley Minteer, Chemistry
Karl Schwede, Math
Carsten Rott, P&A
Jordan Gerton, CSME
Jimmy Kendall, Advising
Lindsey DeSpain, Dean’s Office/Staff Rep.
Do you have a concern or an issue that the EDI Committee should know about?
High school seniors, juniors and transfer students are invited to visit the College of Science on the University of Utah campus.
Students who attend a Science Friday event will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 scholarship. Awardee can redeem scholarship after enrolling at the University of Utah!
Are you a teacher or a student group leader who would like to bring this event to your group? Email us to schedule a private event.
February 11, 3:00 - 4:00pm MST (VIRTUAL EVENT)
February 25, 3:00 - 5:00pm MST
March 25, 3:00 - 5:00pm MST
Homecoming 2019 brought a number of alumni and friends back to the U this September. Before the tailgating and the football, the College of Science fielded an All-Star game of their own. The Frontiers of Science Distinguished Alumni Panel, held September 27, featured five science alumni currently working in cutting-edge science and technology.
Kirk M. Ririe, BS’05 Chemistry, Founder of Idaho Technology, (now Biofire), a medical device and diagnostics company. Ririe since developed new methods for rapid diagnosis of diseases and pathogens ranging from the common cold to anthrax.
Doon Gibbs, BS’77 Mathematics and Physics, currently the Director of Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. Brookhaven is a multi-program U.S. Department of Energy laboratory with nearly 3,000 employees, more than 4,000 facility users each year, and an annual budget of about $600 million.
Dylan Zwick, PhD’14 Mathematics, Co-Founder and CPO of Pulse Labs, a startup company working to provide testing and analytics for developers working in the voice app industry. Pulse Labs was one of nine companies chosen for the “Alexa Accelerator,” Amazon’s first startup accelerator.
Reshma Shetty, BS’02 Engineering, Co-Founder of Ginkgo Bioworks, a Boston-based biotech company focused on using software and automation to bring rapid iteration, prototyping and scale to synthetic biology and organism design.
Ryan Watts, BS’00 Biology, CEO and Co-Founder of Denali Therapeutics, a biotechnology company focused on treatments and cures for neurodegenerative illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Dean Peter Trapa acted as moderator for the evening. The mood was warm and friendly and surprisingly personal at times. The panel brought a huge range of diverse experiences to the discussion while consistently crediting their scientific education and research training as key to their success.
- by Matt Crawley
first published in Discover Magazine, Fall 2019