Jessie Maisano Recognized as Honors College 2021 Distinguished Alumnus Award Winner

Kent State ‘94 Alum Maintains Connection With Kent State Honors College While Working at the University of Texas

Dr. Jessica Maisano, 2021 Distinguished Honors Alumni Award recipient.
Jessie Maisano graduated in 1994 from Kent State University’s Honors College with her bachelor’s degree in Geology.  

Maisano started her time at Kent State University as a Fashion Merchandising major, but once she met Honors College professor, Don Palmer, she was inspired to change her major to Geology and pursue a career path that was more impractical, but she was passionate about. 

She pursued her Masters and Ph.D. at Yale University in Vertebrate Paleontology, graduating in 2000. 

Maisano is now a research scientist at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas where she is the manager of a lab focused on using CT scanners to see through everything except people. The scanners she uses are able to see through meteorites and fossils.

She came to the University of Texas immediately following her graduation from Yale University and has been there ever since. She had two postdoc projects at the University of Texas and was hired to be the lab manager around 2007. 

Maisano stated this is not at all what she thought she would be doing as her career. When she came into the lab, the technology was completely new so she was learning on the ground.

One of the most beneficial experiences Maisano gained through the Kent State Honors College was completing a Senior Honors Thesis. She referred to this as the most important and valuable experience she had as part of her Honors College experience. 

Maisano’s thesis was a winner of the Portz Scholar award; she was the first Kent State University student to receive this award. According to Maisano, most undergraduates do not have that research experience so this gave her a leg up in the field of science and academia at the graduate level.

“If you have something that you’re really passionate about, just do it and trust that it will work out,” Maisano said when asked to name the greatest lesson she learned during her undergraduate years. Maisano and her husband both followed their hearts when it came to their career paths and she said it worked out well for both of them.

Although Maisano is happy with the path she followed, she does wish she would have finished her degree in fashion merchandising. She believes she learned many things from that area of study that translated fortuitously to a career in science. Public speaking was the most valuable course she took while on this track.

Maisano was a lab assistant for current Kent State University Honors College Dean Alison Smith. One of her favorite memories is when she would work in the lab and they would watch “General Hospital” together.

“For a large State school, I never felt like a number at Kent. That was because of the Honors College and the Geology department, my experiences there,” Maisano said.

Maisano says the most important thing she has learned from her current role at the University of Texas is that all science is interesting. She says typically scientists focus in on their one area of expertise, but in her current role she works with scientists in many areas and enjoys helping them use the data from her lab in their research.

Her favorite part of her job is helping other scientists. While her position includes some research, her main role is managing the lab. She does oversee the outreach that they do, as well. She is primarily helping other scientists use the data they collect from the CT scanners in her lab.

Maisano’s best advice to current undergraduate students is to be efficient with their time and to keep financial aspects in mind. She says to follow your heart from the beginning so you are making the best use of your time possible. She also gives this advice to prospective graduate students who visit the University of Texas.

Maisano encourages students to work on public speaking no matter what field they choose to end up in. She says this is a basic professional skill that will carry you forward in any field you choose.

During normal times outside of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maisano is very involved in her church and choral singing. She also does work with animal groups, feeds a colony of feral cats in her neighborhood, and fosters cats for the local humane society. Maisano also manages her husband’s art business. 

In her free time, Maisano loves to cook. She says she has been growing into this over the past ten years. Her favorite thing to do is grill, something she took over from her husband about 15 years ago.

Although Maisano is not local to the Kent State area anymore, she has maintained a strong connection with the university. She has given a symposium in the Geology department and participated in the Career Conversations events with the Honors College.

In response to how she feels about receiving this award, Maisano says she values the connection she maintains with the Honors College. She knows how crucial they were in starting her career along with the Geology department. She feels honored and is so happy to still be in contact with both areas.

“I so appreciate the fact that I maintain a connection with Kent State, the Honors College, and the Geology department,” Maisano said.



PHOTO CAPTION 1: Decorative "K" fixture on the Kent campus.

PHOTO CAPTION 2: Jessie Maisano, Distinguished Honors Alumna.

Media Contact: Stephanie Moskal,, 330-672-2312

POSTED: Friday, April 2, 2021 01:22 PM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 02:34 PM
Alex Jones, Honors College Intern