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Less than seven years ago, this Bonavista native was contemplating not even attending university; today, he's getting ready to study for his doctorate at Oxford
As he started his first year at Memorial University in 2014, Jevon Marsh of Bonavista had to summon up the courage to take that big, new step in his life.
He was away from the rural comforts of family and friends, and was on his own.
And when the dark angel of doubt began telling him he didn’t belong there, he turned to his mother — the one person he knew he could count on the most to set him straight. After her encouragement, Marsh forged ahead.
He’s never looked back.
Marsh is now the 2021 Rhodes Scholar for Newfoundland and Labrador, one of 11 Rhodes Scholars from across Canada for this year. The scholarship provides the opportunity to study at the University of Oxford in England in the fall where he intends to pursue a doctorate in inorganic chemistry and to work on developing novel therapies as potential treatments for children with rare cancers.
Marsh, who holds a master of science degree from Queen’s University and a bachelor of science Memorial, is passionate about using chemistry to tackle some of the greatest challenges in cancer research.
“My research experience is actually quite diverse, from nuclear chemistry to pharmacology, and I thank a lot of the different funding bodies both here in Canada and internationally that have given me the opportunities I’ve had to study in so many different disciplines, in so many parts of the world,” Marsh said.
“From those experiences, I gathered that therapeutic and diagnostic development was what I was most passionate about, where I could really use my passion for chemistry, and where I could also continue pursuing my interests in cancer research.
“I think most people can relate to knowing someone who has battled with cancer. Although in the past there wasn’t much I could do, I feel like now, through my research, I am able to discover new things that can help advance how we will treat oncology patients in future, bettering the lives of future patients.
“I chose to continue on in rare pediatric cancers because my research at Queen’s was largely in a similar area and I loved the fact that my contributions someday would help treat children who are battling these complex and difficult diseases, who currently have no options available for treatment.
I want to be a contributor to giving them a fighting chance.”
Outside of his studies and research, Marsh is a registered yoga teacher, is a passionate mental health advocate, and while at MUN aided incoming refugees settling in Canada. He also supported various community non-profits working with marginalized and low socioeconomic status community members.
We tracked Jevon Marsh down to answer The Telegram’s 20 Questions.
1. What is your full name?
Jevon Wayne Marsh.
2. Where and when were you born?
Born in Clarenville hospital in 1996, and raised in Bonavista.
3. Where do you live today?
4. What’s your favourite place in the world?
I love so many different places around the world for different reasons; whether that be nature, the language, the culture. However, having spent a fair amount of time in Europe on exchange throughout 2017-2019, I would have to say my favourite place would be Italy. I love Italian food (pasta is ALWAYS a good idea!) and of course gelato; I am also always awed by the history in Italy, the art, the language, and how friendly the people are!
5. Who do you follow on social media?
I’m not that big into social media, to be honest. However, I do use it to keep in touch with my family and friends (especially those that I have met throughout my travels), as well as news, travelling, food and fashion pages.
6. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
After my first week of university in 2014, I called my mother to tell her that “university isn’t for me because people like me don’t belong here.” After a pep talk and some encouragement (thank you, Mom for always being in my corner!) I overcame that anxiety, completed my first semester and then declared my major in chemistry and biochemistry. I think a lot of people would be surprised by this because of the things I have achieved since beginning my academic career. But I also think that it is something that a lot of people can relate to, especially those who are also faced with adapting to city life if they were raised rural, and those of us who are a first-generation college student.
7. What’s been your favourite year and why?
2018. I had just finished my joint honours degree in chemistry and biochemistry at Memorial University, and I went to Bordeaux, France, for my research over the summer. I was able to travel throughout the Bordeaux region and learn a lot about wine, tour some of the best wineries and sample some of the best wines.
8. What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
I think the hardest thing for me was finding the courage to just be myself and pursue a life that I am passionate about irrespective of societal norms and any expectations others have of me… carving out that place to just be my authentic self.
9. Can you describe one experience that changed your life?
In 2017, I went to Germany on exchange for the summer. I lived in Dresden, which is about two hours from Berlin, and worked at Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden- Rossendorf in the Institute for Radiopharmaceutical Cancer Research, and I assisted in engineering a diagnostic agent for fluorescent guided surgery. At first, I was very nervous. I was moving to a country I have never been to before, where I didn’t know anyone, and I couldn’t speak any German. However, after arriving and establishing a little routine, meeting new friends and getting used to the culture, Germany became like a home away from home. I was able to travel throughout Europe, experience new cultures, try new foods and learn the basics of different languages. The experience overall really allowed me to grow not only professionally, but also personally. It was the moment when I realized how much I truly love research and put me on this journey. I also think there is a lot of beauty in stepping outside of your comfort zone and launching yourself into something totally new as it gives the best opportunity for personal growth.
10. What’s your greatest indulgence?
A gorgeous bottle of Bordeaux, especially a Cabernet-Sauvignon from Chateaux Timberlay.
11. What is your favourite movie or book?
There are a few for me, all meaning something different which is why it is kind of hard to choose… but because I finished this one recently and really enjoyed it, I think “Angels and Demons” by Dan Brown.
12. How do you like to relax?
I love to sit in a quiet room with a cup of tea (King Cole orange pekoe or a cup of Earl Grey) and read by a fire (in fall/winter). I also carve out time in my schedule for yoga, and recently I have started meditating and journaling.
13. What are you reading or watching right now?
I just started reading “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, and I just finished watching “The Queen’s Gambit.”
14. What is your greatest fear?
I would have to say heights, which is funny considering in 2019 I jumped off of a cliff in the Swiss Alps to go paragliding. But conquer your fears, right?
15. If you had to perform karaoke, which song would you choose and why?
Oh, without a doubt a song by Lizzo, and most likely “Soulmate” to be honest. She has become one of my favourite artists in recent years because of the kind of energy that she puts out into the world regarding self-love and self-compassion. I find her music and her story to be very inspiring, and her music is a good addition to a party.
16. What is your most treasured possession?
My mother gave me a small pocket-sized music box years ago with an engraving on the top that says “Just for you” and a painting of a dove. She told me it is “for you to take wherever you go in the world to play when you’re having a bad day.” You will always find this little music box on my shelf or my desk in my apartment.
17. What physical or personality trait are you most grateful to a parent for?
I would say my independence. It has allowed me to take initiative and action throughout my life, allowing me to get here.
18. What three people would join you for your dream dinner party?
Betty White (I am a huge fan of “The Golden Girls”), Dan Brown (I love his work), and Lizzo (I think she would be a good addition to any party).
19. What is your best quality, and what is your worst quality?
I would say my best quality is my ability to listen to others, and just provide a space where people feel comfortable confiding in me with anything.
My worst quality is likely how hard I can be on myself from time to time.
20. What do you like to cook?
Pasta… it’s easy to make and always enjoyable to eat!