Jessica Lowenstein Leif '95 majored in physics and minored in mathematics at Union College before earning an M.S. in physics from East Carolina University. Today she is a senior medical physicist at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the associate director of the Imaging and Radiation Oncology Core (IROC) – Houston Quality Assurance (QA) Center. Jessica wears several hats at IROC-Houston, running the day-to-day operations of this office as well as supervising the dosimetry program and the TLD (Thermoluminescent Dosimeter)/OSLD (Optical Stimulated Luminescent Dosimeter) program. As a medical physicist, she also performs the quality assurance on patient charts and the linear accelerator for National Cancer Institute (NCI) funded clinical trials. Jessica is actively involved in the Evelynn Rubenstein JCC of Houston and assists in the Texas Sled Dog Rescue. She is also a member and fellow of the American Association of Medical Physicists Society, and a member of the American Brachytherapy Society, the American Society for Radiation Oncology and the Sigma Xi Research Society. She loves to watch both of her sons play baseball and basketball, and enjoys walking and hiking with her Husky and Bernese Mountain dogs.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career or volunteer activities?
The most rewarding aspect in my career is when I see a patient beat their disease and I know we helped them do it. The most rewarding aspect of volunteering is putting a smile on someone’s face, whether it be finding a forever-home for an abandon dog or putting the right programming together that makes a child excited. The most challenging aspect in my life in general is the work-life balance.
Who inspired/inspires you, both professionally and personally?
Professionally, I have been inspired by two wonderful mentors – Dr. William Hanson and Dr. David Followill. They have helped guide me through my career by telling me the truth whether I want to hear it or not. Personally, I have been inspired by my father and my high school physics teacher. My father is a high-energy physicist and showed me how to have a good work ethic and to love your job. Mrs. Escobar showed me the fun side of physics and how cool it really is. She also made it very understandable.
What advice would you offer today’s women students, not just at Union, but across the country?
If you want it, go get it. It will not be handed to you on a platter. You should always stand up and ask because if you do not the answer is always no. Women play a very important role in science. We look at things differently, which adds an entirely new dimension when looking to solve problems.
What was your most formative experience at Union?
This is a hard question to answer because I feel there were several formative experiences. The first that popped into my mind was being a coxswain on the crew team. It took me completely out of my element and taught me to be more assertive and to be a team player. Through crew I got to have some exciting experiences (racing the Head of the Charles) and work with some great team members.