Skip to Main Content

Our Students

Star Students

Olivia LaFond

Senior - Cary, North Carolina

Career Goal:
I am strongly concerned by the rising prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), and I hope to build a career around understanding them. It is vitally important for the scientific community to identify the causes of autism, to elucidate its mechanisms and to use that information to improve diagnosis and treatment. I would also like to use my education to promote understanding of autistic individuals through science writing and to research the causes of their impairment.

Personal History:
After graduating from Kolbe Academy in 2010, I came to UD with the desire to learn science. My curiosity led me to pursue a degree in Biochemistry with concentrations in Applied Math and Applied Physics. I work as a tutor and grader for the Math Department, and in my small amount of free time, I enjoy singing with Collegium Cantorum, playing piano, writing poetry and watching anime with my friends.

Research Experience:
The summer after my freshman year at UD, I worked as an intern at Asylum Research imaging semiconductors and solar crystal materials with an Atomic Force Microscope. After my sophomore year, I joined the Kuhlman lab at the University of North Carolina Chapel-Hill for a summer of research in molecular biology and biophysics. Finally, I spent a summer using biochemical techniques to study autism at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Sur Lab. Each experience exposed me to different techniques and ways of approaching problems in science, while simultaneously helping me develop and refine my interests. I could not recommend pursuing research more highly.

Why UD?:
Science students at the University of Dallas are not what you might call "factory-assembled." We enjoy classes small enough to permit personal relationships with the professors, but large enough to inspire a comfortable sense of community. We are encouraged to conduct research in the summer, but are not pressured to do so during the school year; consequently, we are able to focus our energy on extracurriculars and understanding the class material, which, unlike many universities, includes not only science, but the humanities as well. While some may deem studying Plato and Milton an impractical waste of time, I can say that not only were they personally edifying during my years at UD, but the close reading of texts and critical thinking skills I developed in those classes greatly improved my ability to read scientific papers, analyze experimental design and communicate my own findings. Finally, the science curriculum is designed in such a way that its easy for students to spend a semester in Rome, an experience I could not recommend more highly.

Advice for High School Students:
If you're planning to study chemistry, physics or biology, do O'Hara. It's hard work, but it was the most fun semester I've had at UD! Finishing General Chemistry so quickly will allow you to take higher level science classes before the Rome semester, which then makes you more marketable to summer research programs. It also provides eight credit hours of wiggle room in your schedule for anything from that math concentration you want to pick up or the short story class you're just dying to take.
In addition, whatever discipline you choose to pursue, take a programming class. It can only help you and is becoming vital in many disciplines, especially any field which requires data analysis. 

 PJ Anderson

Senior - New Braunfels, Texas

Career Goals:
When it came to deciding who I wanted my future self to be, there really was never a defining moment. For as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a medical doctor, but had not a clue what that meant. Having undergone my undergraduate, pre-med education here at UD, I can confidently say that I now know what it takes to be qualified for acceptance into medical school – physically, mentally and spiritually. After UD, I plan on receiving my M.D. here in Texas and, as far as choosing a specialty, my specific medical interest will hopefully dawn on me as I progress through medical school! Ultimately I would like to practice somewhere in Texas, where many communities throughout the state continue to be considered "medically underserved."

Personal History:
I came to the University of Dallas from New Braunfels, Texas, a small (but up-and-coming) town in which those ambitious bunch of aspiring physicians are few and far between. My grandfather played a very influential part in my formative years and, although Lou Gehrig's Disease took him from us when I was but 10 days old, the stories I had been told of his medical endeavors and compassion for others gave me the overpowering desire to take on the same call he had taken. Athletics had been another large component of my life prior to UD, as I was heavily involved in basketball and a fitness-centered lifestyle. I very much still enjoy (and try to incorporate) fitness into my daily regime, although I am careful to keep my academics ever ahead of me, and have learned (perhaps the hard way) where my priorities lie.

Research Experience:
In the summer between my junior and senior years here at UD, I had the fortunate opportunity to be selected as a research intern at AbbVie Labs in Chicago, Illinois. While there, I worked as an associate medical chemistry researcher to develop compounds subsequently to be tested for activity against tuberculosis (TB), a very notorious and widespread infectious disease. Working and making connections with leaders in the biopharmaceutical industry, those individuals at the forefronts of medicinal chemistry research, was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. It proved to be a very insightful look into one of the many fields aiming to improve the health and well-being of humanity, and I could not have asked for a better career-developing experience during my summer break.

Why UD?:
I would be biased in saying that the UD Chemistry department is second to none, but I wholeheartedly affirm that I have received the greatest education in the physical and biological sciences that has prepared me for the next step. Having come from socially-centered sphere of public school and entering into an academically-focused life at UD, I was quite naïve in knowing what a pre-med educational track was like. Luckily for me, I had ambitiously decided to participate in UD's O'Hara Chemical Sciences Institute Summer Program the summer just before my freshman year. It was during this accelerated chemistry program, in which I gained credit for General Chemistry I and II, that I had realized the academic rigor I was about to partake in for the next four years. Having expressed a desire to enter the medical field, my professors, well aware of the competition and stress I would be up against as I neared medical school, had suggested I choose biochemistry as my major of study. Despite the sheer academic difficulty I faced traversing UD's biochemistry curriculum, nothing could have prepared me better in becoming the ideal medical student I have always wanted to be. The fusion of UD's science and humanities courses had molded me into the highly competitive scholar every medical school seeks: one who possesses a life-long enthusiasm for understanding and the compassion needed to devote one's life to the health and well-being of others. UD was the optimal institution for ensuring I receive the necessary education conducive for this, and the only place I could be absolutely sure I would acquire these attributes.

Advice for High School Students:
One's undergraduate years are crucial in cultivating the mental and emotional skills necessary for graduate school. For those interested in the health professions, it is important to keep in mind that many medical schools vie for those whom they believe will complete their curriculum, despite, perhaps, subpar academic performance. The outstanding medical school candidate, however, is never complacent with average performance; it should always be in one's best interests to challenge oneself and exceed these standards, for as they say, "shoot for the moon, and if you miss, you will be among the stars." UD, for me, has often been a frustrating challenge, but in the end I can whole-heartedly attest to having become the medical school candidate I have always dreamed of becoming. The faculty, my peers, and the resources here at UD had been all I could ever ask for for preparing me for medical school. Thus, in choosing an undergraduate institution for one's pre-med education, it is important (as it has for been for me) to choose an environment with an atmosphere centered around academia, driven peers, and helpful and inviting faculty willing to devote their time to the success of their students. In the end, one's education is ultimately what he or she makes of it, so always keep the end in mind and never pass up the challenges that define you and bring you closer to the person you want to become. 

Vance Nygard

Senior - Williston, North Dakota

Career Goal:
My plan is to apply for research fellowships and apply to graduate schools with the ultimate goal of earning a Ph.D. and entering the industrial workforce.

Personal History:
I was born and raised in Williston, North Dakota. At home on the Great Plains, I went to a Catholic grade school and public junior and senior high schools. Band and karate occupied most of my time, and I was able to study German, Spanish and Norwegian. Perhaps my biggest regret is quitting piano lessons, but I am proud of the numerous trips that I have been able to take in the meantime.

During the summer of 2013, I lived and researched in Köln, Germany. At the Intstitüt für Physikalische Chemie under Simon Pelz and Dr. Annette Schmidt, I synthesized polythiophene polymers and characterized their magnetic and electronic properties. This research helped me explore the interesting society and workings of the research world and will help businesses make better organic electronics.

Why UD?:
I was looking for a Catholic university that was outside my native North Dakota, and UD offered me a golden opportunity. Studying chemistry at a university focused on the liberal arts means that the science department is small but passionate, leading to lots of personal help when needed and the chance to get to know our professors well. The academic rigor is consistent in every classroom, and the end of the liberal arts education (creating mature, well-informed citizens able to analyze and empathize) is accomplished regularly.                                          UD has been a wonderful, edifying experience in every aspect. From O'Hara before freshman year, to my Rome semester, to chemistry research in Deutschland, the education received and friends made at the University of Dallas have been great blessings.

Advice for High School Students:
Taking the initiative and investing yourself in your education and relationships is a lot of work and can be taxing, but the rewards of those dawning-discovery moments and great friendships are precious beyond measure.


Opening the Imagination to Beauty

We teachers dream of reaching our students, of sharing our passion for what we have learned with eager, intelligent, receptive students. Alas! how rarely most of us seem to...

+ Read More