Jennifer O’Brien

Educator Collaborator

Jennifer O’Brien is a teacher and the Global Studies Program Director at the Watkinson School in Hartford, Connecticut, where she has taught forensic science, zoology, and environmental science since 1998. She has always strived to make science the “best class of the day,” preferring labs, field trips, and hands-on projects to standard lectures.

Jen has routinely found unique ways to show her freshmen, juniors, and seniors that science is all around us. They’ve gone on animal-based scavenger hunts at the Asian grocery store; participated in WebSlams, where they designed websites for local environmental non-profits; and explored forensic science by writing and filming their own version of “CSI.” Whenever possible, Jen has brought a global perspective to her lessons, encouraging her students to consider how matters of environmental and social justice relate to what they’re learning. In that vein, over the past decade, Jen has led service-learning trips to Mexico and Uganda, where her students worked closely with locals on education and sustainability projects.

After completing a bachelor’s degree in biology at Siena College in New York, Jen earned her doctorate from the University of Connecticut, where she researched the territorial behavior of the coqui tree frog in the rainforests of Puerto Rico. It was during a stint teaching college students, as well as middle and high schoolers in a science enrichment program, that Jen discovered a true passion for the classroom.

In her free time, Jen loves to travel and consume all things pop culture—podcasts, reality TV, you name it. She considers herself a foodie who loves to cook.