Women in STEM – Meet Dr. Lena Jaqua
Meet Dr. Lene Jaqua!
She has her Ph.D. in theoretical nuclear structure. Here at CCU, she teaches physics and upper-level mathematics classes. She also coordinates and sometimes teaches SCI-230 which is the science class for non-science majors. She serves as the mathematics and physical sciences chair within the School of Science and Engineering.
Growing up, Dr. Jaqua’s favorite subject was Latin. She enjoys learning foreign languages even though she did not major in this. Coming from a long line of teachers, Dr. Jaqua was inspired to become a teacher. Even her great-grandparents went to college to become teachers. She always felt that her family members believed in her and supported her throughout her academic pursuits.
Dr. Jaqua went to college at the Technical University of Denmark to study physics which only had 5 percent of women in the program at that time. Currently, this number has increased to 25 percent. She did mention that she had doubts and insecurities. This was because she was told that she was “good at math for a girl” which is different from when someone told her brother that he was good at math.
When Dr. Jaqua went to the University of Arizona to obtain her Ph.D., a classmate had told her that she was only in their class because “they needed to fill their quota of women”.
Dr. Jaqua is very math oriented. Her favorite part of STEM is how physics can be expressed mathematically through equations. These equations can be tested in the lab, where we can gather data, which can be fitted to theoretical equations. This information helps us understand God’s design of the universe and what holds it together. Nothing that we discover is a surprise to Him because He created everything. She loves being able to get a glimpse of God’s thoughts. There are individuals who are persistent and precise to pursue these numbers which allows us to get the exact numbers of things like the size of a proton. Whereas students know when they conduct experiments in the lab, they encounter numerous percentage errors but are still able to determine answers using others previous work/equations. Dr. Jaqua also appreciates how everyone, no matter where they are, no matter their religious backgrounds can attain the same scientific results.
One thing that fascinates Dr. Jaqua about her field is that scientists can do basic research like examine the components of an atom or find the mass of the atom.
Scientists researched the curiosity and love for their fields. For example, in the 20th century, the best semi-conductors were discovered by doping semi-conductor materials (not drugs). Now, computers and phones were produced using the basic research principle from the research done on semi-conductors. She also loves how this research can bring comfort to human beings. Just the idea of the many things we have and use today came into existence thanks to science.
By the grace of God, Dr. Jaqua was blessed with a son who has Down syndrome. He was medically complicated at birth, so she had to take a step away from academia to take care of her son for a season. She homeschooled all her children during that time, taught online, and wrote some books, also. After several years, and by the grace of God, her son got much better, and Dr. Jaqua decided to go back to work outside the home again.
Thankfully, there was a position that had opened at CCU that was a perfect fit for her.
Dr. Jaqua’s absolute favorite part of teaching at CCU is her fabulous colleagues. SSE has a great team that works well together. She mentioned that when she started, science and mathematics was a part of the School of Humanities and Sciences. There were 4 faculty members teaching in science and math. Now, Science and Engineering is a separate school with its own dean, engineering program, nursing program, kinesiology, computer science, 12 full time professors and 6 affiliate professors. She loves how professors have each other’s backs. There have been times where her colleagues covered her classes so she could take care of her son.
She also loves the students here at CCU. They are so positive, honest, and kind. Once when she was sick, multiple students reached out to send prayers and see if she was doing okay. Dr. Jaqua enjoys meeting students. She loves being able to be a small part of facilitating help for what students need to get over their self-doubt to learn the materials and be successful in her class.
Dr. Jaqua’s faith has played a huge role in her field.
She believes that when God is at the center of her existence, there is a core calm that is with her even when she has no idea what to do next.
One can lean on God during the trying times creating a steadiness and peace that comes from God’s goodness so no matter what happens, one is reminded that God is in control. Within science things can go right but things can go wrong and need to be fixed, so truly believing that God is in control means that one does not have to agonize or question God, but say “here I am, show me where to go even though this is not the direction I wanted to go”. Each of her colleagues embodies a different part of faith that helps Dr. Jaqua discover spiritual truths in a place where her colleagues are rooted.
An advice that Dr. Jaqua would give to women pursuing STEM is that “we need you”, especially in fields like math and physics but also in science education.
Women need a fellow woman to look up to and know that there is someone “like me” in this field. She said that it is hard to be a trailblazer because there is a lot of doubt that comes with being first, and one is vulnerable when alone. The more women who step up, the more we will be able to show other women that “they too can do it”.
One cool thing that Dr. Jaqua has done within her field was during her graduate student experience. Her first semester, she took a nuclear physics class with a professor and then became that professor’s research assistant for the rest of graduate school. Her Ph. D. research eventually became standard material for nuclear physics textbooks used today. She feels like God has given her a silver spoon, where she was fortunate to have a great advisor who had resources and was able to research the right thing at the right time.
One thing that Dr. Jaqua wants others to know about her is that she is not as scary as some may think.
She knows that physics and calculus are daunting classes, but she is approachable and is willing to meet with you. She really wants to help her students to become successful. It is also important to be well prepared for daily classes because coming to anything underprepared will create lots of frustration which is never good.