Tamera Jahnke, Ph.D., has been with the College of Natural and Applied Sciences at the Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri for 15 years.
She has spent almost half of her academic career with the university because they place strong emphasis on caring for students, faculty and staff. As the dean, she’s had the opportunity to facilitate the learning of hundreds of students. “I have worked alongside students as curious about research as I am. I’ve also had the opportunity to make a difference in my department and my college as an administrator,” she said.
“We have a policy in the college that gives a cash incentive to all faculty who submit a grant proposal requesting over $30,000. This gives faculty additional funds for travel or to hire more students,” she said.
Dr. Jahnke grew up in a small town in northeast Iowa. She earned a bachelor’s and a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Iowa (UI). Her initial goal was to attend medical school and UI was the only public institution in the state with a medical school. She went on to study chemistry because she wanted to gain admission to graduate school but it was a great way to learn about how drugs work and how to make drugs, she said.
She likes challenges. Recently she completed a Master Plan study for the college, “to truly give us the space we need as a university. We have a plan and now it’s my job to find the funding – another challenge in our challenging world.”
As a scientist, she gets to learn something new everyday. “It’s always satisfying when your hypothesis, experimentation, and results lead to the conclusion that you expected. I also found it that it can be very exciting when it doesn’t,” she said. “I synthesized a new compound and collected all of the structural data about the compound. Much of it matched the hypothesis but not all. It took several more experiments but I discovered that I had made something I didn’t expect.”
Currently her research focus and interests are on drug development, making newer and better medicines, and determining the chemical structure of complex molecules using instrumentation.
Being a professor has been rewarding. “Those moments when the light bulb goes off for students and they understand a concept that they have been struggling with or when a student brings in a letter of acceptance for a job or graduate school or a professional school,” she said.
She’s been able to stay connected with the students as a dean by teaching a class every other year – this fall she’ll teach the Essentials of Organic Chemistry. She also makes time to listen to students that are on the student advisory committee – individually or in a group.
MSU is a student-centered school because all the faculty and staff are here for students, Dr. Jahnke said. “They are the reason we are on campus. We all work together to help them be successful and meet their goals.”