Jenny received a BA in Biology from Oberlin College, Ohio, where she developed an interest in viruses and cancer. Her undergraduate honors research project was about something else entirely – the evolution of sex chromosomes in a local tree, the Osage Orange. But she enjoyed delving into this esoteric project, while still flexing her main interests during several internships at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, where she worked on human papillomavirus and cervical cancer.
On graduating from Oberlin, she moved to the University of Washington in Seattle, where she completed a Ph.D. in the laboratory of Julie Overbaugh. Her thesis work examined the evolution of feline leukaemia virus during the course of infection in cats, in which she was able to correlate virus mutation with outcomes of lymphoma and immunodeficiency. (This cat virus would eventually take a starring role in her third novel – in progress.)
Next, Jenny emigrated to England to take up a post-doctoral position at Cancer Research UK's London Research Institute – which one day would serve as the slightly disguised setting for her first novel Experimental Heart. There, she studied the role of the cancer gene c-Myc in cell survival and cell death in the lab of Gerard Evan. She then moved on to a small start-up biotechnology company in the Netherlands, where she directed a team developing new viral gene therapy and drug treatments for cancer – and soaked up inspiration for her second novel, The Honest Look. When the company eventually folded five years later, Jenny went into scientific publishing for four years, first as an assistant editor in open-access publishing, and then as a editorial manager overseeing five academic journals.
But the lure of research soon called her back to the lab. She received a Wellcome Trust fellowship to study cell shape and architecture at University College London (you can watch a video of Jenny explaining this work in this film by Alom Shaha.) Having moved on in 2012, Jenny is currently head of a cell biology lab, also at UCL, where she studies how the cells of our body interact with invading bacteria.