Life Behind the Looking Glass

Jason Walsman | Undergraduate, Biology & Earth Sciences | Biophysics Researcher

(Update: Walsman is now a Ph.D. student at IU Bloomington.)

Jason Walsman describes himself as an explorer, a guy who would rather be out digging in dirt instead of sitting behind a desk in a pressed suit and tie.

Not that he doesn’t have ambition:  Although he officially is declared as a biology and environmental science major with a minor in chemistry, he also has extensive coursework in mathematics and biophysics. All areas of science hold mysteries for him, and he said he is driven to discover new and exciting things.

“I see all fields of science as being fundamentally integrated and connected with one another. I think each discipline has interesting ways it can inform the other,” said Walsman, a junior in the School of Science at IUPUI.

Walsman, who recently became IUPUI's first Goldwater Scholar, was homeschooled in Indianapolis, and his parents were used to seeing his curiosity about the environment lead him on many adventures, he said. It was common for him to come home with snakes, turtles, frogs and any other creatures he happened upon. He has been caring for a brown recluse spider in captivity in his bedroom for nearly three years now.

The environment, Walsman said, consists of many different layers of science and life. After earning his Ph.D. in ecology, he plans to spend a career learning as much as he can about the world around him.

“When I set out to look for the right university, I wanted to find something close to home that would allow me to be outside, learning and practicing science outdoors,” he said.

So far, IUPUI’s programs have offered him all of these research opportunities and more. He has completed two service-learning projects with the Center for Earth and Environmental Science (CEES) and has taken samples and collected data for geology and ecology courses.

Jason Walsman

Jason Walsman prays with another member of an IUPUI Christian organization

He also has benefitted from his work in the biophysics laboratory of Horia Petrache, Ph.D., associate professor physics. He has studied how bacteria respond to different stresses in their environment. The research has been meaningful and has integrated several science disciplines, which he said has opened his eyes even more to the possibilities of research available at IUPUI.

He has presented his research at the Biophysics Society Annual Conference. He also has been involved in several mentoring and volunteer teaching programs on and off campus. Walsman, a Chancellor’s scholar, has been honored with the Chemistry Resource Center Freshman Chemistry Achievement Award. 

“I’ve found that all the professors are so open to undergraduates being involved in their research,” Walsman said. “Getting involved in research has really helped me as a student. It’s given me a much more practical focus and has provided context for what I’m learning in class.” 

In fact, he now can envision himself conducting research as a career. His goals prior to graduation are to co-author a research publication and study abroad in a developing country. He’s interested in one day teaching and researching ecology overseas, ideally in a location involving some sort of sustainable development efforts.

When he does find some spare time, Walsman enjoys playing ultimate Frisbee on campus and is a member of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship group. He has an older sister who is an interior design student at IUPUI.

Walsman can be seen in this recent video from the Department of Physics promoting the interdisciplinary nature of research at IUPUI.