Jenan Kharbush

Jenan Kharbush | Lead Vlogger, Chemical Oceanographer / Microbial Biogeochemist

Jenan grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, with a great appreciation for science and math thanks to her Palestinian refugee father and American mother of Swiss descent. Jenan fell in love with the ocean the first time she saw it as a child, and immediately decided that she wanted to be a marine biologist and study whales. Even after she’d been talked out of that dream, gone off to college, and decided to go to medical school and get an MD-PhD, the ocean was always in the back of her mind. So when she came across a program called Sea Education Association (SEA) Semester, she knew she had to go. SEA semester is an amazing program where students plan a research project and then carry out that project on a six-week sea voyage, while learning to sail on a tall ship. Thanks to some generous scholarship
support (and a last-minute gift from her grandparents!), Jenan embarked on what would turn out to be a life-changing journey. She ended up at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, CA, where she had a (mostly) fantastic time learning how to science, surf, and play beach soccer, before earning a PhD in Chemical Oceanography. She also developed a passion for teaching, and making science more inclusive and accessible to everyone. Jenan’s research uses molecules made by marine microbes, sometimes called “biomarkers”, as clues to study where and how they live in the ocean, and how they influence global carbon and nutrient cycles. After grad school Jenan did a post-doc at Harvard University, focusing on the biomarkers made by phytoplankton, and just started a new job at the University of Michigan studying microbial nutrient cycling in the Great Lakes. It’s kind of funny: although Jenan originally wanted to study the largest creatures in the ocean, she ended up fascinated with the smallest!