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Remembering Jennifer

Jennifer Cantu, a biological sciences student at NC State, died in Cameron, N.C., on May 28. Her death is being investigated as a homicide. She was 27.

Cantu served in the U.S. Army and obtained two associate’s degrees before coming to NC State in 2017. While here, she participated in the Research PackTrack program, which remembered her as “a brilliant and talented researcher and a sweet and optimistic person.” In May 2019, NC State plans to award her a posthumous Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences. The Jennifer Cantu Memorial Fund has been established to support undergraduate students in the Department of Biological Sciences who have served or are serving in the military.

During her time at NC State, Cantu was a big part of the NC State Biotechnology (BIT) Program. Two of her professors and mentors with BIT, Carlos Goller and Sabrina Robertson, shared their memories of her.

Carlos Goller

Jennifer was always energetic, enthusiastic and hardworking. As I witnessed during a course she took with me, she quickly made friends who loved her! Her passion and genuine interest were contagious.

I met Jennifer in Spring 2017 at a small undergraduate research panel at which I spoke about the BIT Program and our courses. Jennifer was eager to learn and asked several questions during the panel. A week later, she came to Jordan Hall to discuss courses. I mentioned that we were transitioning to electronic lab notebooks and needed a student helper to assist with the transition, create tutorials for students and maintain the computers. I was thrilled when she accepted.

Jennifer was also a team player, working closely with two other students on the computers and creating beautiful videos that we put on our NC State BIT YouTube channel. She was very creative and helped film, edit and caption these videos, which are part of a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates grant project that Sabrina Robertson and I launched this year.

In the classroom, Jennifer was passionate about science and blossomed in a BIT 501 course I co-taught called “Ethical Issues in Biotechnology.” She frequently shared her opinions and made contributions that made the class reconsider their own views.

I will remember Jennifer for her enthusiasm to learn molecular biology as well as to understand the ethical implications of biotechnology in society. Her drive and motivation, even during tough times, are unforgettable.

Sabrina Robertson

Jennifer was persistent and hardworking and always had a smile on her face. That speaks to her professionalism, energy and impact.

The videos she created for the program Carlos Goller and I are running are awesome. They feature NC State scientists on campus and highlight their research projects that are open to participation by undergraduate students. Jennifer previously had no experience doing this and, working in a team with another of our students, created an amazing project. She also helped me convert all my lab protocols into an electronic lab notebook for a course called “Mapping the Brain.”  

Jennifer touched so many activities and people in the BIT program. She will be remembered and missed as a fun-loving person who brought energy into any room or project.

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