Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Laura Pengrin
UR Major: Biology
Additional Education: Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
Current City, State of Residence: Ringtown, PA
How did you choose your major?
Ever since I was a young kid, I knew I wanted to go into medicine and I was always curious about anything and everything involving the body and how it worked. Throughout elementary and high school I always enjoyed my life science and biology classes and felt like they were a good fit for me. I knew a major in biology would both give me a good background for medical school and appeal to my interests and skills. When I found out I could take classes like anatomy, physiology, and environmental animal physiology, I knew it was perfect for me.
What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?
My freshman year, shortly after orientation, I joined the Sihir Bellydance Ensemble, which at the time was a brand new club on campus. I had never danced as part of a group before in my life, but these girls seemed so confident and I knew I had to try. I fell in love with this style of dance and the positive, empowering attitude it helped me to develop. I carry that added confidence with me now, and I cherish the friendships I made along the way.
Who were your mentors while you were on campus?
My biggest mentor while at UR would have to be Dr. Dietsche, the professor of anatomy and physiology at the time. He was definitely an eccentric, sometimes over-the-top kind of guy, but his passion for those subjects drew me to him. He made you want to come to lecture, to learn, and to care about why we were learning these things. I worked as a TA for his anatomy and physiology labs my senior year and the experience helped me so much in my first year of medical school, trudging through the nine long weeks of anatomy block. I email with him from time to time, updating him on my progress through school.
What is your opinion regarding graduate school vs. working right after graduation?
After graduation I realized I didn’t have enough money saved up to apply to medical school so I knew I’d be starting some sort of job for the year. At first I was frustrated that I would be “wasting a year,” but I think it ended up being the best thing for me. I found a part time job teaching adult night classes in anatomy and physiology at a business and technology school near my hometown. I learned a lot about myself and really grew in my ability to effectively communicate with others. I gained more confidence in my abilities and in my knowledge, and I felt ready to go back to school; more grown up and more prepared.
What early career advice can you give to current UR students studying biology?
The best advice I can give is to always follow your passion, do what makes you feel fulfilled and valuable. Whether that means you will use this degree to pursue graduate or professional degrees later on, or whether you plan to go into research or academia, you have to feel satisfied at the end of the day. You were great enough to be accepted into UR and that means you can achieve great things. If you’re not sure what your passion is yet, then go out and experience as much as possible, leave no stone unturned. You owe it to yourself.
Where would you like to be in five years?
In five years I see myself nearing the end of my residency program in family medicine, looking toward opening my own small practice. Hopefully then I will be starting a family with my husband-to-be, Nick Hamlin, a former Midnight Rambler who is also from the class of 2009. I would like to continue to be an active UR alum and give back to the community that gave so much to me.