Jake WalczakJake Walczak; Masters Student

I am originally from Hartford, WI. I received my Bachelor of Science Degree (Geology/Geophysics) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. My thesis work was done under the supervision of Dr. Shangping Xu. My work focused on examining the transport of manure-derived, antibiotic resistant E. coli in saturated porous media. Before starting my research I had virtually no microbiology experience in the classroom or laboratory. Now I feel that I have developed a deep understanding of the factors that control bacterial transport in the saturated subsurface environment and have become proficient in many of the aseptic techniques necessary for working with bacteria in a laboratory setting. My research is important because the extensive use of antibiotics by humans and in the animal farm environment has increased the occurrence antibiotic resistant bacteria. Manure containing these bacteria is commonly spread across agricultural lands as fertilizer, which allows for the potential for antibiotic resistant bacteria to contaminate the groundwater. Understanding how these bacteria are transported throughout the groundwater system is important to protecting our groundwater resources and human health. I have been able to present my research at WGWA and AWRA Wisconsin Conferences, as well as, the ASA-CSSA-SSSA International Conference. I recently started a position as a Hydrogeologist at a local environmental consulting firm and will be defending my thesis in the Fall 2010 semester.

  1. Hometown?
    My hometown is Hartford, WI. I moved there from Milwaukee in the 5th grade.
  2. Previous degrees (Degree and University)?
    I received my undergraduate degree in Geosciences in 2006 from UW-Milwaukee. I then decided to continue my education at UW Milwaukee in 2007.
  3. Expected graduation date?
    December, 2010
  4. What is your field of study and how would you describe it to a prospective graduate student?
    My field of study is Hydrogeology. I study bacterial transport in groundwater systems. Particularly, I analyze differences in bacterial surfaces properties, such as, zeta potential, cell surface acidity, surface proteins and lipopolysaccharides, and cell hydrophobicity and relate the surface properties to their observed mobility in porous media using column experiments.
  5. What brought you to UWM to study Geosciences for your graduate degree?
    I really enjoyed the undergraduate program at UWM. I found the research topics that the faculty were doing in the department relevant to current issues in the world and wanted to be part of it.
  6. What's been your best experience so far?
    I have had a lot of great experiences at UWM. It’s hard to say which was my best experience, but, I would have to say attending the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco ranks pretty high. Going to San Francisco was actually the first time I was on an airplane, so I was a little freaked out on the way there, but it was definitely worth the trip. There were over 16,000 geologists there and getting a chance to talk to some of the people that I have cited a billion times in my research papers was pretty exciting.
  7. In graduate School, have you gotten the opportunity to travel as part of your education?
    Yes, besides San Francisco, I also had the opportunity to present my research at the ASA-CSSA-SSSA conference in Pittsburgh, PA. One thing that is great about geology is the opportunity to travel, which sets it apart from the other sciences. In fact, I have already been given the opportunity to do some traveling in my new career as a Hydrogeologist.
  8. What trait or thing has allowed you to succeed in graduate school?
    I think the most important trait that helped me succeed is my love for learning. Keeping my mind open to learning aspects of science that are outside of what is considered “the norm” in Geology has only made me a more well-rounded scientist and has also given me the opportunity to work with great people within the Geoscience Department, as well as, with people from other departments at UWM.
  9. Do you have any advice that you would give to a new graduate student in your program?
    Focus…Focus…Focus. There are many times when it can be easy to lose sight of your goal, however, if you stick to a routine that works for you, success will come your way. Don’t be afraid to reward yourself when you achieve one of your goals, trust me you deserve it.
  10. What has been the hardest part about being a graduate student (Is there anything that you've had to "give up" as a graduate student)?
    Giving up time with friends and family and working around the bacteria’s experimental schedule. Time is a really important factor when doing experiments with bacteria, they get really uncooperative during experiments if you are ever off schedule.
  11. What are your plans after you graduate?
    I will be working at a local environmental consulting firm as a Hydrogeologist.
  12. How would you describe the Department of Geosciences at UWM to a prospective student?
    Every faculty and staff member has helped me at some point in my graduate career, whether I have questions about class material or even career opportunities, they are always willing to help. The Department also does a great job of challenging you and making you a better scientist, but at the same time creating a relaxed atmosphere.
  13. What has been your favorite activity while you’ve been in Graduate School in Milwaukee?
    Disc golf with fellow grad students. I was thinking about going pro for awhile, but I think I will have more success as a geologist.
  14. What do you most enjoy about Milwaukee?
    I love being able to walk from my apartment to Lake Michigan. The summer festivals, fish fries, and of course the beer.

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