Last year was the inaugural year for the Ferid Murad Medal, awarded in honor of Nobel Prize winner Ferid Murad ’58.
This year, finalists Stephen Dobbs, Madeline Perry and Hang “Lucy” La will compete for the prestigious award. Nominated by their major departments, the three have left big shoes to fill at DePauw academically.
How did you feel when you made it to the final round?
I found out maybe a month ago, and it was obviously a big surprise. I got an email about it while in class and at first I was like, “what’s the ferret murud award?” and then I looked it up and figured out it’s a pretty big deal.
So you started off as a history major and then switched to geology. That seems like a huge transition. What was the cause?
I thought it was a huge transition, but the more and more I’ve gotten into geology the more I’ve learned it’s just macroscopic history. It just kind of happened, I took maybe two history courses first semester freshman year, and then on a whim I got my Q credit and took intro Geo and fell in love with it. The person who taught that class Tim Cope, would later become my advisor. I got really lucky because he saw that I was really into it and took me under his wing.
Do you want to talk about your field work and the time you’ve spent in China?
I’ve spent pretty much my entire undergraduate career devoted to on research project, which is studying the Yan Mountains in Northeast China, which is a mountain range that sort of resembles Appalachia, so lots of trees and bushes. My research has been devoted to figuring out what the heck happened to create these mountains. It looks like a Jackson Pollack painting. Usually when you look at a geologic map and you have some geo scales you can sort of interpret what’s happening, but you look in here and there’s just craziness and it’s hard to deconstruct what happened. So that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
So have you figured it out?
Parts of it—a lot of it. It’s also cool because they’re mountains so you get to run to the top of them and bushwhack up them and map everything. That’s the great thing about geology is “the outdoors is your office.”
Outside of academics, what’s something you’ve had the most fun with at DePauw?
This is a hard question for me because I’ve really devoted myself to research and academics. Unfortunately I feel like I haven’t put in enough time to other times. But one thing I did was I was in a band for a while called “Lonely Women”—an all-male piece. It’s a really pretentious reference to a jazz song.
After graduation plans?
I’m going to be doing a Master’s program at Northern Arizona University at Flagstaff looking at some mountains in northwest Mexico. The hope with China is to have a publication out by the end of this year. So the hope with this thesis is that it’s publication quality. We have a couple publications out already but not a full fledged paper, so fingers crossed.
Anything else to add?
My sincerest gratitude to DePauw for nominated me and thank to Tim Cope and Fred Mills and Fred Sauster, the professors, and to my parents really for supporting me through all of this.
If you wouldn’t mind starting off with how you felt being announced as a nominee and then as a finalist?
I was really excited and really honored to be nominated. For this award you have to be nominated by your department, so the bio department and the sociology department jointly nominated me, and I was really honored to see that they felt so highly about my academic achievements and all the effort I’ve put into the work and the classes.
What is one your favorite things that you’ve done academically here at DePauw?
So, I’ve had classes that I’ve loved but one of my favorite things is that I was in the Science Research Fellows and we have to do off-campus internships for that and I’ve had one of my favorite research experiences ever through that experience. I actually worked with poop the entire summer—like actual human feces. But it was a really cool malnutrition project that I was working on and I’m going to work on it again this summer trying to create or test a drug that can rejuvenate someone’s small intestine when it’s been ruined by malnutrition.
What are your plans after graduation?
I’ve been accepted to medical school, which is exciting, so I’m either going to go straight into medical school at the University of Cincinnati or I’m going to take a gap year and go to Northern Uganda and work on a pharmaceutical analysis project. So I’m waiting to hear back on some grants for that, so I’ll probably have a decision on that by the end of next week.
Aside from academics, what do you feel that you’ve contributed to the DePauw community in your time here?
You might be able to tell I’ve done a lot with global health, so I’ve worked with Timmy Global Health starting my freshman year, I’ve been the president of the club for the past three years, I’ve led a winter term trip, and so I’ve really just enjoyed getting involved and sharing about global health with other people.
What do you think your time at DePauw has taught you either academically or outside of the classroom?
I think that my time at DePauw has taught me to go for my goals. I’ve had some really great advisors who have pushed me to do more than academics and to challenge myself in other ways, and I think that without those advisors and without that encouragement and support that I wouldn’t be doing anything that I’m doing today.
Anything to add in general?
I’m excited to hear who wins the award, I’ve read through the bios of the other two finalists and they seem like they’ve done amazing, incredible things. I don’t’ [know either of them personally]. It’s crazy how in such a small school you miss some people.
Hang “Lucy” La
La is a history major originally from Ha Noi, Vietnam. She spent a semester off-campus in Paris, France and has written multiple scholarly papers, which have been nominated for the Forum on Education Abroad on Undergraduate Research award, as well as having been presented at the Phi Alpha Theta Ohio Regional Conference. La was unavailable for interview or for a photo