From Ashland in 4th and 5th grades at Briscoe Elementary to Lincoln, Nebraska and back to Ashland HS for his 1999 graduation, Jonas Buser ’04 never thought he’d end up attending SOU. After his early high school commencement, he made his way to Tahoe to snowboard for a few months then moved back to Ashland to live with his father and stepmother where eventually, he enrolled at SOU.
His freshman year, he took the typical variety of general education credits but obtained a waiver to take the anatomy-physiology sequence courses as a freshman and made the most of it by finding he had a real aptitude for science. “I loved being in that course and the challenge it presented to me academically and intellectually,” said Jonas. “I became highly motivated because of that course.” That performance and interest spurred him to go the pre-med route in his schooling. It was after taking a chemistry course his sophomore year, that he made it his major.
Jonas was a student in Dr. Lynn Kirms’ organic chemistry courses his sophomore year and then served as an organic chemistry student- mentor for Dr. Hala Schepmann his junior year. He thrived academically. “It began with memorization then turned into pattern recognition and studying how molecules react to each other that really got my attention and interest,” he said. He repurposed himself from partying and having a good time to trying to get the top grade in all of his courses and the competition paid off for him as his GPA climbed. He loved his professors and courses, particularly Tom Kevil’s bio-chemistry course. “Dr. Kevil always said ‘I teach for free but I get paid to grade your papers’ which is something that lives with me even to this day. He was a great teacher and advisor for me and many others,” he added.
After graduation with his bachelor’s degree in chemistry, Jonas took the MCAT for medical school and applied to several schools but didn’t get accepted. He regrouped, made his way to Monterey, California, via the invitation of Owen McDougall, who taught a spectroscopy course at SOU. “Owen invited me and several other students to a conference in Monterey my senior year. In my spare time at the conference, I helped a chemist build a fire on the beach and that help and connection ended up helping me get a job,” he said. He ended up going through a nine-hour interview with no experience and was hired by the Eli-Lilly Chemical Company and moved to Indianapolis.
With Eli-Lilly now for seventeen years, Jonas is a Research Scientist and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopist where he has become a world leader in experimentation of how chemicals react. He has travelled extensively to present at professional conferences, is published, and now teaches incoming Eli-Lilly chemists techniques as the company encourages innovation and creativity.
“In many science programs at major universities, the students don’t always get an opportunity to operate sensitive equipment. At SOU, the chemistry department encourages a hands-on approach and you get access to professors that you don’t get at the big schools. If I had the opportunity to do something different about my undergrad education, I wouldn’t change a thing! That program gave me a great foundation to get a job in an incredibly competitive industry and I had no experience,” said Jonas. To return the favor, he’s teaching a remote NMR course for SOU students this spring. Now that’s a long way from Tahoe and shredding slopes!
Learn more: Eli Lilly