Jessica Hawkes, from Moncton, NB, is in her fifth year, completing a double degree in Bachelor of Arts (honours English) and Bachelor of Science (biology).
1- How did you choose your academic path?
I was always interested in the sciences and I started doing biology as my major. My plan was to go to medical school. English was my minor because I loved it and loved to read, but I didn’t think I would make a career out of it. I just wanted my minor to be something I really liked. I got to the start of third year and I realized I was happier in my English classes than my biology classes. So I added a second degree in honours English. At that point I decided I wanted to get my Master’s in English.
2- Can you describe the independent study you designed?
I am looking at the interaction between science and poetry in the Romantic period and how there wasn’t so much of a divide between the two. Specialization was just starting to happen in the Romantic period. Science and poetry were both published in the same journals and they reached the same general audience. Often poetry would be about science and they were interrelated. I am looking at specifically the development and rise of botany, in particular how the Linnaean system of taxonomy became integrated and well known by the general public from the poem The Loves of the Plants. That poem wanted to make botany accessible to the general public, in particular women, because there was a huge influx of plant species coming to England at the time because of voyages of discovery. They needed people to understand botany to be able to work with the specimens. The product of the research will hopefully be a 20-25 page paper.
3- What do you hope these degrees have prepared you for?
I hope they have taught me how to think critically. I like that they are multi-disciplinary because there is so much focus these days on specialization and I just don’t know how well that prepares you for life in general. The ability to do multi-disciplinary work is really great and I know lots of people that are doing different degree combinations like this — it’s way more common than I thought it would be.
4- What are you passionate about outside the classroom?
Sport. I run. I do CrossFit. Triathlon is a really big part of my life right now. I am training for my second half Ironman in July, so that is pretty much consuming my life.
5- What’s next?
I have applied to a bunch of grad schools. My number one choice is Waterloo. There is a supervisor (who also has a BSc) who does work on how literature can be used, especially around issues of climate change, to make it more accessible. I am trying to bring biology into it, especially in terms of making science accessible and interesting to the general public. I think scientific illiteracy is a pretty big problem.
PHOTO CAPTION: Jessica Hawkes (middle) with her sister Melissa Hawkes ('19) (left) and mom Linda Taylor ('85) (right) at her first half Ironman in Saint Andrews, NB.