Thanks to a little persuasion from her East Central University professors in the Biology Department, Jaymi Chumley-Steele wasn’t about to settle on a career away from forensic science.
Steele, who at one time was seeking to go the physical therapy route, is now pursuing a master of forensic science program degree at Florida International University this fall. She was selected above numerous applicants for the prestigious FIU program and it’s safe to say that the foundation for this research endeavor was established at ECU.
“They were looking for students with a biology and chemistry background. Having a molecular biology background bumped me up,” Steele said. “Everything fell into place.”
Steele, an avid scuba diver, is hoping to use those skills in the pursuit of a career in bringing up underwater evidence as a forensic pathology assistant.
“ECU actually played a pivotal role, particularly through the professors and spending time in molecular biology,” said Steele, a 2016 ECU graduate. “Dr. April Nesbit and Dr. Alisha Howard, a couple of new professors, both came midway of my time at ECU. Their love of what they do made me excited. You were very excited because of their passion. They’re easy to talk to and easy to go with a question and they really want to get to the answer. They’re definitely leaders in their field.”
According to Steele, Nesbit encouraged her to go the molecular biology path because of Steele’s evident love of research. Working alongside a pathologist is Steele’s ultimate goal.
“I love the thought of putting together a puzzle. I feel like it’s a calling,” Steele said. “I came to ECU to be a physical therapist, but the light was turned on. I feel real comfortable with my decision. I feel like the ECU and the professors have prepared me for it.”
Steele, a 1991 Quinton High School graduate, began her college journey at Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton where she received encouragement from her professor David Juarez, an ECU graduate and instructor in molecular biology.
“He’s the reason I went to ECU,” said Steele. “I loved Dr. (Terry) Cluck and Dr. (Charles) Biles at ECU. There were a lot of professors who have helped me.”
Steele’s husband of a year-and-a-half, Garrette Steele, is in law enforcement. Garrett actually proposed to Jaymi underwater during their open water scuba diving certification.
“I performed my last skill for the instructor and returned back to the platform underwater where the rest of the students in the class we waiting,” Steele said. “As I sat on the bench my now husband swam over in front of me and dropped down on one knee and had a ring and the words “Will You Marry Me” written on a wet erase board.”
She said that they had been practicing taking their regulators out of their mouths and returning them back all day.
“I kept wondering why we had to do that so much, but I figured maybe they just wanted to make sure we didn’t panic in a situation where we may have it knocked out of our mouths,” said Steele. “Apparently, they were just getting me comfortable with taking it out for our kiss after he asked, and of course I said ‘yes’.”