Jessica DeitzerJessica DeitzerGraduate School: Where are you from?

Jessica Deitzer: I am from Scranton, Pennsylvania (yes, like The Office). 

GS: What degree(s) did you receive and when?

JD: I received my Bachelor's in Psychology and Sociology from Penn State University in the summer of 2013. I am graduating this summer from UAB with my Master's of Science in Criminal Justice. 

GS: How long have you been at UAB?

JD: I have been at UAB since the fall of 2013.

GS: What is your research?

JD: Most of the research I have conducted at UAB involves qualitative interviews with methamphetamine (meth) users and cooks in the South. My thesis focuses on how and why more women are becoming meth cooks, specifically inside the context of local "shake and bake" meth markets. I am also working on some new research about "criminal self-efficacy," or the appraisals of offenders of their own competencies at crime and how that affects their identity formation and decision-making processes.

GS: Why did you choose UAB for your graduate studies?

JD: I came here as an undergraduate in the summer of 2012 for the Crime Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program led by Dr. Kent Kerley. The experience I had here was one-of-a-kind and convinced me that coming here for my Master's would set me on the right career path.

GS: What awards or honors have you received?

JD: I received the Outstanding Graduate Student in Criminal Justice Award in 2014 and 2015. Two other students (Megan Webb and Julien Grayer) and I had our initiative accepted to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University. This year, I also won the Samuel B. Barker Award for Excellence in Graduate Studies at the Master's Level.

GS: What has been your most rewarding experience at UAB?

JD: I have been encouraged by my mentors to pursue my own research interests and lead my own projects. My thesis was based on a project I took the lead on and saw all the way through. It has been very rewarding to work on these projects and has built my confidence as a researcher.

GS: Who was your greatest influence here at UAB and why?

JD: Dr. Heith Copes is the director of graduate studies in criminal justice, my thesis committee chair, and my mentor. He has helped me through countless projects and career-related decisions. He taught me so much about academia, criminology, and research, and has gone above and beyond a typical mentor many times over. I know he will remain influential to my career even as I leave UAB.

GS: What is your motivation in your academics/research?

JD: I like the idea of finding new things and generating new knowledge in the field. So, I am partially motivated by the knowledge itself. I am also motivated by the poor state of our criminal justice system and the high rates of recidivism in the United States. I believe that criminology research, if translated to our government and policies, can make a difference.

GS: What are your plans after graduating and for the future?

JD: This fall, I will be joining the Criminology PhD program at the University of Maryland. After I receive my PhD, I hope to become a professor of Criminology and continue working in research and teaching.

GS: What advice would you offer to other graduate students?

JD: First of all, be proactive. Taking the first step to set meetings, express interest, and get a project started can lead to great results. If you don't initially speak up, none of that can happen. Don't be afraid to chase your own ideas. But, don't be hesitant to listen to correction and advice, which will help you greatly in the long run.

See more student spotlights here. You can nominate a student you believe deserves to be recognized by sending an email to juliemck@uab.edu.