At age 21, student and undergrad instructor close to Ph.D.

Sept. 30, 2013

April Wefler
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Welcome to a new semester, class. Meet your teacher: Jewell Anne Lee Hartman. Oh, by the way, she’s 21.

Hartman said she doesn’t normally tell students her age. “I don’t walk into the class and say, ‘Guess what, I’m only so many years old.’ I just give them my credentials and they guess for themselves,” she said.

“Usually, people guess me at about 26, 29 or so. I remember my friend Nick guessed me at 23 when I had just turned 18,” she added.

Hartman has been a UCCS employee since she was 19 and was on the president’s honor roll every semester. Since then, she has taught various math classes and physics labs.

In addition to being a grader for the math department, she has tutored at the Center for Excellence in Mathematics for the last four years and was the youngest tutor the center has ever hired.

“I really enjoy getting to meet the students and kind of see the side of teaching that includes helping students out and not just helping them with the course material … being an inspiration and someone for them to look up to,” she said.

Last spring, she was selected as the coordinator for the National Space Symposium. “I did staff the booth the entire time, coordinated everything with all the professors, coordinated the involvement, handled the whole event. And I can’t wait for next year’s; it’s going to be even bigger and better,” she said.

Hartman is also a researcher in the BioFrontiers Institute, a program for interdisciplinary research that has a center at UCCS.

“My research involves cancer treatment and detection using nanoparticles, so it’s all about nanoscience,” she said. “I just really have a passion to use physics to help people.”

When Hartman was 18 months old, her mom realized Hartman could distinguish between vowels and decided that if she could do that, then she could learn how to read.

“She just noticed that I had this capability, and [she thought] why waste that intelligence?” Hartman explained.

“So she taught me to read and then we just kept on going, and she always jokes about 12 years, 12 grades, no big deal.”

At age 3, she was studying first-grade material. Hartman was homeschooled and graduated high school at age 12. She then started taking online classes through CU Boulder as a chemistry major, getting four semesters of credit there before transferring to UCCS.

“Then I took college trigonometry and decided OK, I’m gonna change and be a math major,” she said.

After her first day of Physics III, Hartman added physics as her double major. She graduated summa cum laude from UCCS with a 4.0 GPA and enrolled in the physics graduate program. Now, Hartman is only two classes away from her Ph.D.

Hartman also has a computer science degree and has taken enough classes to almost have a history minor. She is also a couple of classes away from a master’s in mathematics.

“Honestly, I feel it’s intrinsic. My mama is this way, too, and I definitely inherited it from her, and it’s just a natural, intrinsic drive for success and always the desire of learning,” she said.

Hartman said she doesn’t like to make people feel uncomfortable. “I don’t have the feeling that I can only be friends with those that are of the intelligence level that I am. I have friends in all fields, and I’m not at all kind of cliquish about who I will associate with,” she said.

“One of my friends … when I first met him, he said, ‘You know, you are really a paradox.’ And I mean, that is kind of how I do think of myself in the sense that I don’t fit into one particular box.”