By Cameron Hurst '20
Athletics Communications Intern
Upon graduating from Southwestern High School, Lakewood, N.Y. native Jordan Powers never planned on attending St. Bonaventure University.
At that point, his plans included attending Bucknell University to study biochemistry and run track for the Bison's men's track and field team.
Plans tend to change, however.
"Right before Christmas break I broke my foot and it resulted in me having to get surgery," said Powers. "After that, I didn't really see track as something I could succeed in anymore. I wasn't going to be competitive enough to run at the level I would want to."
Powers did not let his situation get the best of him. Instead, he used it to motivate him toward his next step.
At Southwestern, Powers had a decorated career as a member of the swim team. He went undefeated in his senior season, captured a Section VI title in the 100 free and placed fifth at the New York Public High School Athletic Association swim meet. He graduated with six individual team records.
Having been recruited by St. Bonaventure out of high school and still longing to remain competitive, Powers transferred and joined the swimming and diving team.
"I knew it would be tough to get back into swimming shape, but it was something I really wanted to pursue," he said.
And pursue he has as the senior has been a trusted member of coach Sean McNamee's program since transferring to Bonaventure his sophomore year, most notably scoring for the Bonnies as part of a 12th-place finish in the 50-freestyle as well as swimming on two fourth-play finishing relay teams in the 200-freestyle and 400-medley at the 2017 Atlantic 10 Swimming and Diving Championships.
On top of his success in the pool, Powers has perhaps redefined success in the classroom for a student-athlete.
Upon his arrival to St. Bonaventure, Powers met Dr. Xiao-Ning Zhang, director of the university's biochemistry and became involved in her research into a protein called SR45.
SR45, according to Powers, is involved in splicing mRNA, which is a process involved in DNA before it becomes RNA.
"I am studying how this gene is involved in plant immunity and how this gene could be potentially turned on and off to increase the plant's chances of survival when infected by a disease."
Powers and Zhang have shared their research with professionals from around the world at conferences in Texas, Ohio, and Hawaii.
"Attending these conferences has been a great experience for me," he said. "I have gotten to present my research, while at the same time building my network and learning about other people's must up to date research."
Powers has been recognized extensively for his standout work academically. In October 2016, he attended the Rustbelt RNA meeting in Cleveland, Ohio with Zhang, giving a presentation about his research titled ""RNA-seq data analysis revealed a novel role of SR45 in plant innate immunity." His work resulted in a win as one of two "Outstanding Undergraduate in Oral Presentation" awards. Then, this past August, he was one of 1,500 scientists who attended the American Society for Plant Biologists annual meeting in Hawaii, receiving a competitive travel award. At the meeting, he presented his research on SR45 from the past year to researchers from nearly 40 countries. Scientists in different countries, including Zhang's lab at SBU, are still actively working on understanding how SR45 does its job and what the impacts of this protein are.
"We have found that SR45 may play a role in suppressing plant innate immunity. I am very interested in seeing if there is a way this protein can be regulated to increase a plant's immunity when it is infected by a pathogen," Powers said.
Zhang has been impressed with Powers' development during the research.
Said Zhang: "In 2016, he was a fresh undergraduate trainee who had no prior research experience. A year later, he is considered as a capable graduate student by multiple researchers around the world although he is actually a fourth-year undergraduate student. I am very pleased and proud to see how much and how fast he has advanced in his academic preparations."
Zhang values Powers' work ethic and actually credits his athletics career for refining it.
"Jordan represents a perfect example for the high value training that our biochemistry program provides for any motivated students," she said. "I value much more of his excellent work ethics, ability to stay focused and undefeated motivation to go above and beyond. It is a recipe for success. I give much of the credit to his family and his swim training."
"Balancing school and sports can be a challenge at times," said Powers of his busy schedule, crediting the coaching staff for working with him to help manage his schedule.
"With practices and classes taking up a lot of time during the normal week I have to really manage my time. And with meets, I can't really afford to fall behind. I have missed a lot of normally scheduled practice times because of labs and classes so they are constantly helping me by rearranging practice times so I, as well as others, can still practice."
Now, in the midst of his final season in the Brown and White, Powers still has his sights set on a few more accomplishments.
"Academically, I hope to maintain a high GPA. I am applying to a handful of graduate programs and I would like to get into most of them to have my pick," he said. "As far as the team goes, I would like the team to be competitive in the A-10 again. Last year we had a down year, so hopefully we can bounce back and return to the top of the A-10."