“I’ve always been a ‘Why?’ person.”

Charlotte ToddThis sentiment is apparent within minutes of meeting Lauren – she is definitely committed to discovering the “Why?” of life and the world. Despite applying to nine schools, Lauren knew immediately when she stepped on the UNH campus that this was the place for her. She wasn’t really sure what to expect here, it just felt right. It turns out that Lauren and UNH have been a terriffic fit. Here she has been able to further her pursuit of “Why?” by combining a major in Physics with a major in Classics. A seemingly odd combination at first, which becomes obviously connected after just a few minutes
with Lauren.

Having taken Latin in high school when Lauren arrived at UNH she just “got into ancient Greek.” Lauren figured
that an understanding of Latin and Greek would help her gain a better understanding of the origin of some of the scientific terms she came across in her life as a physicist. Soon she became fascinated with the scientific achievements of the ancient people she was studying. She wondered how these ancient people were able to make such sophisti- cated and accurate scientific discoveries
without the benefit of technology. She has come to the conclusion that it was genuine curiosity that drove their discovery. That same “Why?” is at the core of what drives Lauren. “Ancient people had a thirst for discovery for its own sake, they wanted to understand their world,” they “hypothesized and experimented.” Today, Lauren says, “Science is driven by finding solutions to problems, rather than simply wonder- ing ‘Why?”’ – a semantic difference to most, but incredibly profound to Lauren.

Almost immediately upon arriving at UNH Lauren began to quench her thirst for “Why?” by approaching one of her first-year physics professors in search of research opportunities. Her quest led her to Dr. Berglund, who immediately recognized Lauren’s passion for research and discovery, and invited her to participate in his research on String Theory. At first, Lauren admits, it was a lot of
catching up on the material, but once she settled in she helped Dr. Berglund work through the design of a computer program that could help determine the feasibility of some advanced String Theory models. She stayed connected to that project until her senior year.

At the start of her sophomore year, Lauren’s advisor suggested she apply to the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program sponsored by the National Science Foundation. She was accepted and spent the summer before her junior year at Lehigh University studying filament polymerization in cells. The interdisciplinary nature of this biophysics project really appealed to Lauren. Approaching scientific inquiry
holistically made sense to Lauren. Collaborations between experts from different disciplines not only made the discovery more interesting but it expanded her understanding of how different scientific disciplines look at and try to make sense of things.

The next summer Lauren pursued another REU program at Bucknell University where she became a member of a team studying the oscillation of neurons in the brain. What happened that summer not only resulted in a topic for Lauren’s senior honors thesis, but she was accepted to
present at the Undergraduate Research Conference and at the American Physical Society’s annual meeting in Portland, OR. It didn’t end there. As part of her research Lauren and her teammates decided to challenge some things, as she puts it “that were assumed away.” By not being afraid, once again, to ask “Why?”, the team discovered an exception to the “rule” and pushed the possibilities one step further.

When asked to share some wisdom with students, Lauren says “Ask, look around, be curious.” – something she has clearly done all along. When met with the challenge of a scheduling conflict that would interfere with her further study of ancient Greek, Lauren asked Dr. Trzaskoma in the
Classics department for help. Soon she was continuing her studies of ancient Greek on a one-on-one basis as an independent study. Her curiosityand thirst to learn seems exactly like the qualities any educator would be happy
to indulge.

Lauren’s story is not just academia. Since being at UNH Lauren has been a four year member of both the Juggling Club and the Concert Choir. Both, she says, are fun and creative ways that she indulges her curiosity. After graduation, Lauren plans to pursue a Ph.D. and hopes to remain in academia as a profession. She feels that with every student she tutors she becomes better and better at teaching. She lives for those “Aha!” moments, when she sees the spark in one of her tutees eyes; the spark of discovery and understanding.

Lauren sums it up like this: “I’ve always been curious (like most people), and my curiosity was nurtured and finally it has blossomed.”

 

 

 

 

 

2013-2014 Honorees
2013 - 2014 CYOS Honorees: seated Zak Ahmad-Kahloon, Emily Dickman, Nyomi Guzman, Annie Crossman, standing Lauren McCandless, Kathryn Sattora, Timothy Marquis, Sid Nigam, Evan Beals, Peter Wilkinson
 
 
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