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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
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Kelly Lane '13

Hometown: Lombard, IL

Majors: Biology and Classics

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • Cantatrici women's choir
  • Newsletter Chair for Pi Beta Phi Fraternity
  • High school tutor
  • Work Study
  • Archaeology Lab Aid Summer 2012
  • Biology Lab Researcher

Off-Campus Experiences: During Summer of 2012 I worked at an archaeological dig at the Roman necropolis in the city of Sanisera. This is on the island of Menorca in Spain.

Post-Graduation Plans: Starting in August I will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Genetics at the University of Georgia.

Favorite W&L Memory: My final choir concert was incredible. We sang so many difficult pieces and I felt that I finally proved to myself that I could do anything I set my mind to. I had never sung formally before joining choir here. Dr. Lynch pushes you to grow as a person and a singer. I cried tears of happiness and sadness for it was the last, but it was the best.

Favorite W&L Event: Fancy Dress is definitely the best event of the year. It knocks my high school prom out of the water and I never knew that people could swing dance to Lady Gaga. At W&L you learn how to swing dance to anything and everything.

Favorite Lexington Landmark: Foamhenge is my favorite for sure. Merlin is there and the stars out in the country are incredible.

What professor has inspired you? Picking just one is really difficult, and I am not just saying that. Dr. Ayoub, Dr. Whitworth, Dr. Carlisle and Mrs. Abry have all been wonderful advisors, each with an open door and a kind ear. The best part about all of them has been that they really want me to achieve my goals, whatever they may be, and they are truly dedicated to helping their students succeed both with their educational goals and with their mental health.

Advice for prospective or first-year students? Bring your raincoat, your cowboy boots, and an abundance of notecards, you are in for a crazy and wonderful time.

W&L just kind of happened to me. I started looking into the school on a whim, I toured it, I fell in love, and I stayed to challenge myself. Freshmen year was quite a transition for me. It is hard going from the big fish in a small pond to the intellectual equivalent of the ocean. I laughed, I cried, I made friends and fought with them, but what kept me going was that I knew that W&L would make me the best person I could be. I am not quite there yet, but W&L has definitely gotten me significantly closer than I was before.

I love W&L because the students don't compete against each other. We are all in it to better ourselves and any existing competition is there only to push each other to reach our maximum potential. We are all just keeping our heads above water and supporting one another. It was in my peers who challenged me and assisted me that I found the best support system I have ever had.

Eventually, I fell into the swing of things and I found my role in the W&L community. I am a research student. My favorite aspect of this university is the wealth of opportunity for summer research. Most people hear research and think science, but we have students researching in economics, English and many other fields. I spent every summer, some of my school year, and will be spending the months before graduate school researching the genetics of black widow spider silk in Dr. Nadia Ayoub's lab. I have not only gotten my hands accustomed to many genetic techniques, but I have become proficient at reading and understanding primary literature, something which I think is an invaluable and still undervalued skill.

I have worked on several different projects with Dr. Ayoub. The most recent of which has actually been to analyze data and write a scientific paper. I am on my way to being an author on at least two research articles, before I even set foot in graduate school.

The experience of writing a paper, analyzing data and creating figures is something that few undergraduates are able to experience. At large research schools, the role of undergraduates in the lab is to wash glassware and run simple experiments. Because W&L does not have graduate students, we have the opportunity to actively participate in all areas of the lab. This 3+ year addition to my curriculum vitae was the key to getting into graduate school for me. I have worked two jobs while at W&L, which is unique for a W&L student and something people rarely have to consider, and my grades are thus lower than I would like. Through researching, I gained experiences that graduate schools love to see in a student, which more than overcame my lower-than-preferable GPA.  

When I went for my graduate interviews it shocked me how little research experience the other undergrads received. Most had to take a job as a lab technician to gain enough practice to apply to graduate school. I was able to jump right in and all of my interviewers were very impressed with my capabilities, which surprised me. Almost all W&L science majors leave with some degree of research experience; I was not unique at W&L, but in the world at large I was exceptional.

Truly, that is what W&L and its students are: exceptional.

Next year I will be on my way to a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Georgia and I have W&L to thank for that.