Jennifer Thomas didn’t start out to be an oceanographer. The graduate student from Virginia Beach, Va., was a music major focusing on trumpet performance at the University of Iowa. But in the summer before her senior year, she discovered that she had a rare bone disorder that might require regular surgeries on her jaw. Those surgeries carried the risk of permanent damage to her embouchure — the way that facial muscles and lips shape around the mouthpiece of an instrument.

So while Jennifer pushed through to complete her bachelor’s degree in music in 2004, she felt that the risk was too big to go further and decided to pursue another passion: science.

In 2012, Jennifer completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Oceanography at Old Dominion University. Still, she wanted more, and a Provost’s Distinguished Graduate Fellowship brought her to Oregon State.

“When I was offered the Provost’s Fellowship I was elated. It felt like all the hard work I’d previously done actually mattered. Other universities couldn’t offer me that,” Jennifer says.

Jennifer’s research focuses on internal waves, a form of gravity wave within, rather than on top of the ocean. She hopes to apply her research to questions about ocean energy and mixing, both of which have implications for how we understand climate and ecology.

The switch from sound waves to ocean waves may not be traditional, but Jennifer is happy with her uncommon journey. “I feel lucky, actually. I can still play music, and now I get to do science, too.”

To learn more, visit the CEOAS Research page.