HBCUs are life! They provide experiences for students that you can’t find anywhere else, allowing Black girls to work their magic in sectors not commonly open to them. Jere’ Williams is one such woman. Currently a Junior at Xavier University in New Orleans, LA, she began taking college courses when she was in high school.
“As high school Junior, I started taking duel enrollment classes at Fletcher Technical College; I finished with 12 hours,” Jere’ says. “My senior year, I took classes at Nicholls State University as well and finished with an additional 13 hours before entering Xavier. I took a Calculus class there.”
This allowed Jere’ to enter Xavier with enough credits to be a Junior and afforded her the opportunity to be a part of a NASA research project to build a battery that can be utilized in space exploration in the year 2021. Here she told us about her out of this world experience.
Madame Noire (MN): Exactly how did the NASA opportunity come about?
Jere’ Williams (JW): The NASA opportunity came about surprisingly! I received a call one day from my now research adviser, Dr. Meda. He began explaining that Xavier received a $5 million grant to fund a research project that would a build a solid state battery using chemical elements to complete the mission to Mars in 2021. He also explained his prior research on this battery that would be meant for patients with pacemakers, so because my great grandmother has a pacemaker, I instantly was ready to join the team. And as the saying goes, “Here I am, and the rest is history.”
MN: What does a typical day of research consist of for you?
JW: A typical day at my school’s research lab begins with the making of the material that will be used to make the battery cell. Once the material is made, it is then analyzed to develop more knowledge prior to building the cell. After analysis, the battery cell is then built and tested to see how well the material is working.
MN: What do you like most about your duties?
JW: My favorite thing is constantly learning more. Each time I think I have mastered something, there’s always some new information presented. I am constantly being challenged in my research lab, whether as a researcher or as a normal human because as a person we develop thoughts and hypothesis, but it is not true until it is tested. So my ideologies are proven to be either wrong or right.
MN: Why did you choose Xavier to pursue your formal education?
JW: Xavier offered me a great scholarship along with the opportunity to complete research for NASA. The value of an education from Xavier University is also a large investment into my future because the curricula is of a higher standard than any other University.
MN: What is your major?
JW: I’m pursuing a dual degree Chemistry-Chemical Engineering
MN: What are your career goals?
JW: My career goals entail a variety of things. My ultimate goals are to become lawyer for a chemical plant or chemical engineering firm, then start my own cosmetic line for people with eczema, since I have eczema.
MN: You are also an honor student… how do you find the time to do it all?
JW: Time management is my best friend. My life follows a chain of action. My school work is always first, then I later add in the extras in my life. Though temptation is hard to maneuver with my school work, I try my hardest to keep it first on my chain.
MN: Your hometown seems ecstatic about this opportunity. Do do you feel pressure to be successful? How do you handle it?
JW: I feel pressure not just from my community, but also from myself. I think I am my biggest critic. I handle it by constantly giving my best effort, because no one is perfect. No matter what the situation may be, the pressure will also come. I just try to not allow it to deter me from my future.
MN: What advice do you have for other undergrads who may feel like giving up on school?
JW: Being that I am only 20, my best advice is to never allow your situation to determine your destination. My mom is a similar to a motivational speaker and she instilled that in me at an early age. No matter how tough times get, never allow it to determine your future. No one said it would be easy, but it is up to you to keep striving.