Student Spotlight

Jones adds Orange Gown Graduate to slew of honors

Chris Jones of Edmond, Oklahoma, has left his mark on Oklahoma State University. He was named a 2019 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, the 2019 Top Junior for the College of Arts and Sciences, a Niblack Scholar, a Wentz Research Scholar, a 2019-2020 Outstanding Senior, and also the Orange Gown Graduate for the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Within geology I focus on geochemistry, so how organisms are interacting with the Earth and the chemical record of that. I like chemistry and I like biology. The way to study both is by studying rocks and the sediments that are left,” he said.

Since his freshman year, Jones has worked in Dr. Natascha Riedinger’s lab. His work with Riedinger has led to opportunities to work in a lab in Bremen, Germany, and also two scientific expeditions.

“I went to the Argentine Basin and then was on a ship for five weeks. The second one was to the South Sandwich Islands for seven weeks. That was the most incredible experience of my life. On the ship our duty is to do science and collect samples. That’s our entire job,” he said.

Living on a ship for seven weeks was an adjustment, but Jones thrived. One of the difficulties that he faced was the native language of many of the scientists on board the research vessels. Both expeditions took place on German ships and although the research itself was conducted in English some of the daily conversations were in German.

“Nobody really knows what to do their first time, you just have to adapt,” he said in reference to his expeditions.

Jones worked with a team of geochemists on board who would collect sediment samples from the ocean floor using a coring device in order to investigate the hydrothermal vent system on the sea floor at the East Scotia Ridge. Other teams on board included geophysicists, paleontologists and scientists studying whale populations.

“It’s very diverse and that’s one of the greatest things. On the second expedition, every single day we had a scientific meeting and every day a different group gave a talk. I learned so much more than I ever could in a class because I am sitting there and it’s just one hour of intense study with an expert.”  

All of his research experience has only served to excite Jones about his future in geology. In particular, Jones is interested in what happens to sediment in the ocean immediately after being deposited and also what the early Earth looked like. His work as both a Niblack scholar and a Wentz recipient allowed him to develop his own ideas for research projects.

“It showed me what my future in science is going to be like. You are always building upon your work and ideas, refining them and making them better.”

Research isn’t the only thing that Jones has made time for during his undergraduate career. He works as an assistant director at the OSU Writing Center, where he worked with other consultants to develop ways to help STEM writers. Jones also serves on the College of Arts and Sciences Student Council, a position that he received after being named the Top Junior in 2019.

“I honestly didn’t think that I would get it. I thought there were other candidates that would be more qualified because a lot of my involvement has been more research based,” Jones said.

Jones was also recently named an OSU Outstanding Senior by the Alumni Association.

“Being named an outstanding senior is an honor because it recognizes the interdisciplinary achievements I have made during my time at OSU and in CAS.”

Between splitting his time working on campus, participating in organizations like the OSU Geological Society and the OSU First Generation Club, and continuing to conduct research, Jones has a busy schedule.

Recently Jones was named the Orange Gown Graduate for the College of Arts and Sciences. Each semester one honoree is chosen for each college. They carry the college’s banner to lead their classmates into the graduation ceremony at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

“Being selected as the CAS Orange Gown graduate is truly an incredible honor because it recognizes my accomplishments and interdisciplinary involvement that is a hallmark of CAS students. I am proud to carry the CAS banner and lead us into our next journey,” he said proudly.

Jones has plans to attend graduate school in the fall at the University of California, Riverside, where he will go straight into a geology Ph.D. program with a focus in geochemistry.

“One of my biggest goals in life is to demystify science. I think helping society understand basic scientific principles and how to apply and interpret them is necessary for our continued functioning as a human race,” he said.

After completing his Ph.D., Jones plans to pursue a career in academia.

“I would love to be a professor because I really enjoy teaching,” he said. “I like the one-on-one connection you get with someone else and watching them grow. Teaching is also a two-way experience. You grow and learn about yourself when you are teaching others. I also love the research aspect.”