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Chemistry Spotlight

Laura Edgington: Illuminating Better Cancer Treatment

Laura Edgington“From the moment I set foot on the Transylvania campus, I was hooked. I knew right away that I wanted to spend the next four years there, and all other options melted away.”

As a child, Laura Edgington ’06 bred Nubian dairy goats. She lived on a small farm in northern Kentucky and traveled to goat shows around the country.

“Success in these competitions depended heavily on the structural correctness of the animals. We implemented a strict breeding program to enhance certain traits within our herd and eliminate the less desirable ones. When I took my first biology class in high school, I discovered that the effectiveness of our breeding program could be explained at a molecular level.”

And with that, Edgington’s career in science was off and running. In 2012, after five years at Stanford University, she successfully defended her doctoral dissertation, which focused on fluorescent molecules she synthesized to assess the efficacy of chemotherapy in mice with cancer. After a three-month trip around Asia and Africa, she will begin postdoctoral work at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia.

Edgington chose Transylvania in part because of the promise of small classes and personal attention from professors—a promise fulfilled. She first declared a biology major and then, in her junior year, added a chemistry major after recognizing that her chemistry classes were challenging her in new ways.

Edgington also had other interests she wanted to pursue—art, philosophy, and French language and literature—and she knew Transylvania’s liberal arts curriculum would support that.

While at Transylvania, Edgington engaged in activities off-campus, too. As an officer of the American Chemical Society, she participated in outreach events “to make the words ‘science’ and ‘chemistry’ seem less foreboding for the general public. We did simple but informative chemistry demonstrations at local museums, hosted a chemical magic show at the mall, and taught science lessons at a local elementary school. We even hosted a science night for a local girl scout troop. Thirty girls spent the night on campus, and we taught them how to think like real scientists.” 

Edgington participated in three prestigious summer research programs while a student at Transylvania, including one at Stanford that enrolls first generation college students—like Edgington—and other underrepresented minorities. Her experience there solidified her interest in research. When she was accepted into Stanford’s Cancer Biology Program for postgraduate work, she found her home in chemical biology, a field that allowed her to pursue her interests in biology, chemistry, and imaging.

Edgington is thankful to Transylvania for giving her these opportunities. “When I started graduate school at Stanford, I was quite nervous. Most of my classmates had come from undergraduate institutions like Harvard, Princeton, MIT, and Yale. I did as well in my classes as any of the former Ivy League students. I went on to publish in top tier journals. I was invited to speak about my work at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C., and at international conferences in Australia and Italy. I could not have asked for better preparation, and I owe most of it to the Transylvania faculty. I simply cannot say enough good things about them.

“I have come a long way since my days of being a champion goat showman. Growing up on the farm in Kentucky, my opportunities seemed limited. Transylvania opened my mind to a whole new world of possibilities.”

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