A role model for the changing face of science

November 6, 2020
Jennifer Stimpson

Jennifer Stimpson, a chemist, teacher, and recent alumna of the Graduate School of Education’s mid-career program, was named an IF/THEN ambassador by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. (Image: Courtesy IF/THEN)

Jennifer Stimpson has been an educator for 20 years, but before that she worked as a forensic chemist for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “One of our responsibilities was to volunteer for one hour a week somewhere,” says Stimpson, who recently completed the mid-career program through Penn’s Graduate School of Education (GSE). 

A few years before she’d arrived at the DEA, her office began partnering with a local school, so Stimpson decided that’s where she would volunteer. “I walked into a 4th grade class and told them my name and that I was a scientist. The school didn’t have a science program, so the students had little idea what that actually meant. I realized these kids needed a role model.”  

Quickly, Stimpson began spending more days there than in the lab. Her boss called her in for a chat. It wasn’t to scold her, as she thought might happen, but rather to tell her she’d earned The Administrator’s Award, given by the head of the DEA—a Cabinet-level position—and most often reserved for something like the discovery of a new drug or to acknowledge an agent lost in the line of duty. 

“I got it for community service,” Stimpson says. “I was so grateful and thankful. That was April of 1999. I started teaching in August of 1999 and I’ve been doing it ever since.”  

Read the full profile of Stimpson in Penn Today.