Jenna received her Master’s degree in Quantitative Biology at the University of Texas in Arlington in 2001. Her thesis research involved the reconstruction of the phylogeny of the damselfly genus, Ischnura. She based this phylogeny on the sequence of three mitochondrial genes. She sequenced these genes the old-fashioned way, with radioactively-labeled nucleotides and slab gels. She used software that called out the DNA sequence as she traced it on an x-ray film with one hand and typed it into the computer with the other. If you can imagine such a thing. But she digresses.
Upon graduation, she moved to Berkeley, California and was hired at the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) as a Senior Research Associate, constructing BAC subclone libraries for the Human Genome Project. As the JGI shifted to sequencing mostly microbial genomes, Jenna became responsible for the development of protocols to construct very large-insert libraries.
In 2004, she joined the Evolutionary Genomics group at the JGI and returned to her tree-building roots. In 2006, she began working for Jonathan Eisen, who had moved from TIGR to UC Davis, with an adjunct position at the JGI. In 2007, she began working on her PhD at UC Davis while maintaining her position at the JGI. She graduated in June, 2012 and plans to continue working in the Eisen lab FOR-EV-ER.
For her dissertation research, she has constructed a phylogeny of all sequenced bacterial genomes, and is using this tree to learn more about the processes that contribute to the evolution of microbial genomes. She is also interested in the application of metagenomics to study the function and evolution of microbial communities.