Jean Whelan earned her bachelor's degree in chemistry at the University of California, Davis, and her doctorate in organic chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before coming to WHOI, she carried out postdoctoral work at Brandeis University and taught chemistry at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, N.J. She studies how to use organic compounds to deduce geological processes. Among her research focuses are the formation and migration of petroleum, and she and colleagues have shown that large quantities of gas flowing through some of the world's oil and gas fields may be continuously altered and sometimes refreshed by pools of hydrocarbons that lie deep within the earth. Current research focuses on how this gas seeping also affects the ocean. When she is not in her lab (or sometimes when is she), she loves to sing. A contralto, she has sung both as a choir member and a soloist with many Cape Cod choruses and chamber groups. as well as with her church choir.