Jacob Watts ’21

Biology; minor in geography

The Alumni Memorial Scholars (AMS) Program has been an important part of my Colgate experience.

Jacob Watts ’21 North East, Pa.

Describe your experience with the AMS program at Colgate.

The AMS program has been an important part of my Colgate experience. During my first year, the AMS community allowed me to feel at home at Colgate. We all lived on the same couple floors of the same building, and I still room with my first-year roommate, who is also in the AMS program. It was nice to be a part of a community of scholars, all of whom had creative ideas about how to use their AMS funding. We would daydream at Frank about the trips we would take with our money. 

How would you describe your AMS peers?

My AMS peers are smart, creative, easily excited, and passionate about their niche interests. They play chess, speak multiple languages, lead progressive climate and social justice campaigns on campus, and do much more. They are truly some of the most inspiring peers I could ever want.

The AMS program provides research and project grants. How have you used these grants?

I used my AMS grant during two trips to Latin America to study ferns and practice Spanish. Half of my grant funded my travel to Costa Rica to take a three-week, field-based tropical fern taxonomy and ecology graduate course co-taught by Colgate professor Eddie Watkins and other experts in the field. The other half of my grant funded an individual trip through Colombia, Argentina, and New Zealand. For six weeks in Latin America, I lived with and spoke only Spanish with fern friends whom I had met on the fern course. I spent time exploring Medellín, Columbia, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, and am publishing a paper on some of the data we collected in Misiones, Argentina.

Jacob and his mountain bike on campus.

When Jacob is not in the classroom, greenhouse, or lab, he’s riding his mountain bike on the hills of Colgate’s campus. See how Jacob and other students made it through the fall semester, with its universal quarantine. Read more

Have you had a mentor at Colgate?

My mentor at Colgate has been Professor Eddie Watkins. He has guided me through every step of my undergraduate experience, from research to classes — and how to apply to graduate school. We have become very close over the years. Colgate would not be Colgate without Eddie.

What advice would you give to students in the Class of 2025 who have been selected to be in the AMS program?

Use your funding. All of it. Use it early and often. Using my funding drastically changed my life by opening up other doors for even more funding via scholarships and fellowships. Get to know your professors. Schedule a meeting with the Office of National Fellowships and Scholarships. Go to AMS social events. If you feel lost and overwhelmed, remember that everyone else is also lost and overwhelmed. All you need to do is pursue your passion. Colgate, especially its professors, are here to help.

A portrait of Jacob.


What are your plans for after Colgate?

After graduating, I will get an MPhil in plant sciences at University of Cambridge in the U.K. as a Churchill Scholar. After a year at Cambridge, I plan to return to the United States to get a PhD in plant sciences with the ultimate goal of becoming a professor.

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