Students filed into Dr. Tim Jenkins’s classroom just in time for their regular weekly lecture. But this class period was unlike others, as Dr. Jenkins had encouraged his students to invite family and friends to participate in a discussion about science and religion. Dr. Jenkins explained that at a university like BYU, it’s important to study the correlation between the two subjects, as avoiding their relationship will only create stumbling blocks in one’s testimony.
Students in Dr. Jenkins’ lab are impressed by his ability to host respectful discussions about the relationship between science and religion—so impressed that they nominated him to receive the College of Life Sciences Spiritually Strengthening Faculty Award.
“Throughout my time at BYU, I’ve heard plenty of perspectives on science and religion,” said one of the students who nominated Dr. Jenkins for the award. “By far, Dr. Jenkins gave the most spirit-filled testimony of God’s power as the creator that I have ever heard in any STEM classroom.”
Dr. Jenkins is a cell biology and physiology professor who strives to understand what his students need and want from their experience in his research lab. He provides one-on-one discussions to get to know each student and their academic intentions . Dr. Jenkins takes great pride in fostering an environment for inspired learning. When students feel heard and know their success matters, their learning experience improves. “If my students know this, they feel comfortable asking questions and feel comfortable being wrong,” Dr. Jenkins explains. “This fosters extremely productive conversations and helps students develop and learn to deal with setbacks.”
In his lab, Jenkins and his students are looking at the ways a man has an impact on his children before they’re even brought into the world. Epigenetics is the study of how one’s behaviors and environment can affect the way their genes work. Dr. Jenkins is working to predict a child's health and psychiatric needs based on the father's genetics alone. In his lab, Jenkins hopes to use epigenetics to discover ways to predict certain outcomes in a man’s ability to have a healthy child.
“My entire career with science and the scientific method has been intertwined with guidance and understanding of the world around me, where that comes from and why I’m here in the first place,” Dr. Jenkins said.
Before teaching at BYU, Dr. Jenkins was an assistant professor at the University of Utah’s school of medicine. Being a religious person, it was difficult for him to talk about science without also talking about its implications in religion. “I am a scientist but I am also a pretty religious person,” Dr. Jenkins said. “At other institutions, I felt like I was telling half-truths about who I am and what I believe.” He chose to transfer to BYU because it’s the kind of environment where he could grow his and others testimonies in the relationship between science and the divine. The experiences of his students show his efforts are making a difference.