Dr. Jennifer Schmidt received her PhD from Northwestern University in Chicago, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton University. She is a geneticist and molecular biologist by training, but has broad scientific interests that span many areas of the biological sciences. She spent 15 years on the faculty of the University of Illinois at Chicago, running a research laboratory that investigated the genetic basis of human congenital diseases. She has long had a parallel interest in conservation genetics, however, and in the use of genetic tools to characterize wild populations. In 2001 she partnered with the Shark Research Institute to use genetics to understand the migration and reproduction of whale sharks and other marine species. Her global whale shark genetic study includes animals from nearly 20 different countries, and has allowed her to do field work in places like Mexico, Djibouti and the Philippines. Last summer, deciding sharks are way cooler than people, she left academia behind to take a position as Director of Science & Research for The Shark Research Institute. With a full-time focus on shark biology and conservation, she plans to expand her research to the study of neglected species of sharks and rays, both in the US and internationally.