Graduate students emphasize importance of participation and getting to know professors

Here’s a look at two Patriots from the College of Science receiving graduate degrees at winter graduation.

Janice Rojas, MS forensic Science, ’15. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Janice Rojas, a first-generation student whose family is from Bolivia, has been a regular at George Mason University since participating in the Early Identification Program in high school. The Arlington, Va., resident, who is graduating with a master’s degree in forensic science, also participated in the Student Transition Empowerment Program, was an office assistant for Student Involvement and was in the Hispanic Student Association and the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority Inc. She plans to pursue a career as a medicolegal death investigator or a homicide detective.

“Being involved on campus as a student leader has definitely created amazing memories during my time at Mason,” Rojas said. She urges students to network and go to Career Services workshops. She also encourages Patriots to get involved in academic and student organizations, meetings for cultural and social organizations. “Take a chance,” she added. “It will help give you a sense of belonging on campus.”

She also suggests attending school spirit events sponsored by the Patriots Activities Council or Student Government.

“All these can help you shape your time at Mason and your academic career, exponentially. I am a proud Mason Patriot and am thankful for all the memories and friendships I have gained.”

Jason R. O’Bryhim Photo provided

For his research into shark fisheries in Costa Rica, Jason R. O’Bryhim interviewed market sellers and fishermen about the trade; genetically identified species, finding several threatened species being caught and sold; and looked at mercury levels, finding that most shark meat was above safe levels.

O’Bryhim, who grew up in Northern Virginia, wrote his PhD dissertation in environmental science as a stay-at-home dad with a new baby, allowing his wife, a captain in the Army, to continue to serve.

He’s working on publishing his dissertation research, applying for postdoctoral and teaching positions and continuing his research on shark conservation in Costa Rica. He’s been an undergraduate advisor, taught classes at Mason in marine ecology and oceanography, and has been a teaching assistant for general biology and ecology. Plus, he’s taught study-abroad courses to Costa Rica in conservation biology.

Learn more about Jason

“My best memory has to be the first study-abroad trip I ever took as an undergraduate at Mason. It was a natural history course in Costa Rica where we spent the winter break traveling around the country,” he said. “I have found that as a student and instructor of study-abroad courses, they are incredibly rewarding because they let students actually experience what they’re learning about and they get to interact with their professors in a whole new way. That first study-abroad trip is also important to me because it is where I met my wife, Jen.”

O’Bryhim’s best advice for incoming students is to not just attend classes, but be engaged in them.

“What I mean is, ask questions, particularly in class. As a scientist, you should always be formulating questions about what you are studying. Even if you think you fully understand a subject, you should be asking yourself, ‘What does this mean? What’s next?’”

He also stressed the importance of getting to know your professors.

“Do not just be a face in the crowd. For anyone that wants to go on to graduate school, these are the people that will write your letters of recommendation. Get to know them and let them get to know you so they can present you as you are, and not just a grade on a sheet of paper.”

View the full article with three more Mason student profiles.

Write to Michele McDonald at

This article originally appeared on Mason News.