Jay-Anne Johnson will be the first-ever Black female student to graduate from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in biophysical chemistry.
JMU is the only school in the Commonwealth to offer this degree. Johnson said she stumbled across the degree during a Google search.
“I couldn’t really decide, ‘Do I want to do physics? Do I want to do chemistry? Do I want to do biology?’ So, I was like ‘Let me see if biophysical chemistry exists’, so I kind of Googled it one night,” Johnson said.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
After finding out about her milestone achievement, Johnson said she was shocked.
“Someone from Jamaica who came here as a kid, emigrated and everything, can still shock the world and shock herself in a sense. And if I can do it, anyone can do it,” Johnson said.
“Jay-Anne joined my lab as a first year student, which is kind of remarkable in itself. A lot of first year students don’t feel ready to join a chemistry lab, let alone what I do, so that first made Jay-Anne stand out,” Isaiah Sumner, a professor of chemistry at JMU, told WSHV. “It wasn’t until really like the first couple of weeks of class. You’re looking around and you kind of notice you’re the only student in the class that looks like you,” Johnson said.
Johnson has been a positive impact on her college in many ways. During her four years at JMU, she co-founded the JMU Chapter of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. Johnson also joined a sorority and helped create an LGBQT+ organization for minority students.
“I think that she has made her mark on this campus. So many people know Jay-Anne and so many people will go on to do what she has done,” Lauryn said.
Johnson hopes her accomplishment will continue to inspire others.
“Together in hopefully five or 10 years, we flood the hospitals, we flood the health care world, we flood the stem field with Black chemists, with Black engineers, with Black biologists, and just let them know that we as Black people are amazing,” Johnson said.