Jacob Stern ’16: Balancing Science and Swimming

Posted on November 25th, 2015 by

Jacob Stern '16

Jacob Stern ’16

Determined. Team Player. Motivated.

As a student-athlete in his senior year, Jacob Stern encompasses all of these qualities and more. His academic and athletic pursuits have been nothing less than successful and impressive. In addition to his regular class load, Jacob has completed two prestigious research projects, volunteered at Immanuel Saint Joseph’s Hospital, been a member of the biology honor club, and continues to be a key contributor to the Gustavus swim and dive team.

When Stern came to Gustavus from Rosemount, Minn., he was unsure what academic path he would take. After switching majors and consulting with Gustavus faculty, he finally realized his passion for science and decided to major in biology and minor in economics. “The coolest part about science for me comes at the very end of an experiment. After all of the data collection is over, trying to understand what exactly happened. It’s about seeing how the pieces fit together and coming up with a possible explanation,” said Stern.

Stern’s work ethic and desire to excel motivated him to pursue research opportunities beyond the classroom. As a junior, he was one of four Gustavus students chosen to participate in the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program. The six-month research internship provides students with an advanced experiential learning opportunity through hands-on research and analysis. Over the course of the program, Jacob and the rest of the scholars completed extensive research on a Mayo initiative. The group wrote a 40-page paper documenting their findings and presented their recommendations at a conference at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

Gustavus biology professor Sanjive Qazi acted as the advisor for the students in the Mayo program. He pointed out Stern’s unique qualities that contributed to the success of the team. “He always kept an open mind and tried to look at different perspectives. While he has an anchor in biology, he also has an open mind to apply his studies to other fields,” said Qazi.

Last year’s program prepared Stern for further research endeavors to complement his academic experience. He was accepted into an undergrad summer research program with the National Science Foundation at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. While there he conducted independent research alongside a professor, studying biological energy applications. At the close of his research Stern wrote a paper and presented his results to faculty. Qazi advised him throughout the competitive application process and reflected on his success after completing the program. “Jacob was able to share what he learned here at Gustavus and bring it elsewhere. The University highlighted Jacob’s work at the end of the summer which was a huge accomplishment for him,” he said.

Stern competes on the Gustavus swimming and diving team.

Stern competes on the Gustavus swimming and diving team.

Balancing school, work, athletics, and a social life is a challenge for any college student. Stern has been highly successful in all of those aspects during his time here at Gustavus and has learned a lot about himself. “All of my experiences have contributed in different ways. I have learned so much and I needed everything I was involved with in order to be successful. I had a habit of procrastinating a lot so being an athlete helped teach me how to plan ahead and manage my workload so I could keep my grades up and get some sleep” said Stern. Jon Carlson, Stern’s swimming coach at Gustavus, also commented on his ability to balance it all. “Jacob is the true definition of a complete student-athlete. He strives to achieve great things both in the pool and in the classroom,” Carlson said. “Never in all my years of coaching have I had such an inquisitive person on the team. He is constantly searching for ways to go faster in the pool. This has been a huge key to Jacob’s continued improvement as a swimmer.”

Stern’s offered advice to other students. “Know your limits and don’t be afraid to cut back on commitments if it becomes too much, and don’t be afraid to change majors and try as many programs as possible so you know exactly what you like and don’t like,” he said.

After graduating from Gustavus this spring, Stern plans to work as a medical scribe in a hospital before applying to medical school at the University of Minnesota.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin



  1. Mike Ferragamo says:

    Jacob should be a great physician. He is a class act.

  2. Sanjive Qazi says:

    At Gustavus I have had the pleasure to work with students like Jacob. He has a very professional attitude and high respect for his peers and professors. I look forward to following his career as I expect it will be a fulfilling and meaningful journey whatever path he eventually takes.

  3. Julie Endersbe, Rosemount High School says:

    Wow. How lucky is Gustavus to land Jacob Stern! As his high school counselor, I was a witness to his many academic and athletic adventures. Congratulations, Jacob! Continue the amazing journey. We look forward to further updates and accolades.