Jenna Hebert is a first year Research Master of Science Psychiatry Rhodes Scholar at Brasenose College, and this year represented Oxford at the Cancer Research UK Boat Races in the Stroke seat of the women’s Blue Boat. She originally hails from and was educated in the United States.
Her interest in Psychiatry began whilst studying Neuroscience during her undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania, and she is still able to use much of the same techniques practised at that level. She had originally been interested in Biology, and hoped that Neuroscience in particular may be able to explain why we think in certain ways and have emotions, and connect these abstract ideas with the more concrete science of Neurobiology. Left wanting to know so much more about this area, she decided to pursue a graduate degree.
Having written her undergraduate thesis about drug addiction in mice, she has a particular interest in the application of neuroscience in psychiatric disorders, and made the move from pure Neuroscience to Psychiatry. Her current research focuses on the effect of diet on the brain, motivated by the current belief of scientists that many psychiatric disorders are caused by chronic inflammation in the brain. Specifically she is studying the effects of the microbiome of the gut on the brain, and how this can be influenced by the use of prebiotics.
Looking to be able to study more independently than she had at undergraduate level, Jenna applied to the MSc by Research in Psychiatry, a course lasting between one and three years and examined by the submission of a thesis. The idea of jumping straight into research, rather than spending time on a taught element, appealed to her, and this led her to consider applying outside of her home country of the United States. In the future she hopes to transfer from the MSc to the doctorate course, and to pursue a career in academic research.
As well as her interest in science, Jenna has spent much of her recent years rowing. She originally picked up an oar aged 14 at Steel City Rowing Club in Pennsylvania when she turned up to a ‘learn-to-row’ day, and hasn’t looked back. Now, with an appearance at the World Championships for the US Under-23 National Squad under her belt, and with several years of experience in the University of Pennsylvania’s First Varsity Boat, she has now earned her Blue in rowing at Oxford by racing in the 2017 Cancer Research UK Boat Races. Although this year’s race did not go Oxford’s way, Jenna is determined to come back and race again in future years.
Balancing her research and rowing has been challenging, however Jenna is sure that being an athlete makes her a better student, adding structure and ensuring she works efficiently. She then still finds time to make the most of the social opportunities offered at Brasenose, attending formal dinners and getting involved in graduate community events where possible. She admits she hadn’t initially known exactly what the role of a college was when she applied, but Brasenose has now become a big part of her life here at Oxford and is home to many of her friends. Jenna, as a Rhodes Scholar, is also a part of Rhodes House, which feels very much like a second college to her, and hosts lectures, conferences, and also social events that she enjoys attending when she has the opportunity.