Jason Pflueger: Science in His DNA

Jason loves science.  The oldest of four siblings from Lodi, New Jersey, Jason’s science pursuit started at a young age.  He started asking questions about how the world works and didn’t stop until he had an answer.  This curiosity blossomed in his youth as he became fascinated with television programs such as the Magic School Bus and Bill Nye the Science Guy.

These interests continued through high school where Jason discovered his love of, chemistry.  During high school, he did chemistry internships, where he worked with John Porco at Boston University and Jim Leighton at Columbia University.  After high school, Jason attended Columbia where he continued to study his favorite subject, chemistry where he worked in professor Scott Snyder’s lab on the total synthesis of heimiol A and hopeahainol D.

For his graduate studies, Jason came to UC Berkeley to work in the Sarpong Lab.  Under the direction of Professor Richmond Sarpong, the lab is taking a new direction in synthetic organic chemistry as they get their inspiration from nature to work on natural product synthesis.  Jason describes his work in natural product synthesis as “how to make natural structures from known building blocks,” comparing it to “building with Legos,” something that he loved to do as a child.  He notes that he is fascinated by the work that he does in the lab and still has the same curiosity for the world as he did when he was younger.

This child like spirit not only drives Jason in how own scientific pursuit, but also motivates him to devote his life to passing on that information to future scientists.  Jason leads a Bay Area Scientists in Schools (BASIS) team in the Sarpong Lab, teaching lessons to elementary students on States of Matter and Polymers.  Jason thinks that it’s “important to go out and share what we do as scientists.”

While it can be difficult for graduate students to connect with young leaners, Jason notes, “I don’t like backing down from challenges.”  Over the course of his graduate schooling, Jason has been diligent to get professional development in how to best work with students.  Whether it’s participating in a CRS workshop on Next Generation Science Standards or volunteering at an outreach event such as Discovery Day at AT&T Park, we love Jason’s willingness and dedication for student achievement.

To facilitate continued science outreach in the Sarpong Lab, Jason helps put on “practice runs” with volunteers in their common room.  This helps volunteers feel more prepared and ready for when they go into the classroom.  It also is a way for Jason to help inspire his other lab mates to teach with him.  He admits that sometimes it takes “sheer force of will” to get his lab mates to help with outreach, but that they usually end up loving their experience in the classroom.  As he is leaving the lab soon, Jason hopes that he will be able to pass the baton off to another lab mate to organize the Sarpong Lab’s science outreach.

In his spare time, Jason enjoys puzzles, board games, trivia, and Dungeons and Dragons.  He loves activities that require him to think critically.  After he graduates, Jason plans to pursue an academic job in a postdoc role doing research at a university.  Wherever he ends up, Jason says that he hopes to stay involved with outreach in some way as he would “really miss interacting with students.”  We are thrilled to have fantastic volunteers like Jason that passionately care about building up the next generation of scientists!