Special Senior Spotlight: Meaghan Bruening

Meaghan Bruening '17, a Chemistry major with a Physics minor, is more than an impressive woman! Meaghan will be graduating as one of the valedictorian's for the undergrad class of 2017. If this isn't impressive enough, Meaghan has been accepted to the prestigious Caltech (California Institute of Technology) to continue her studies. Meaghan is one hardcore STEM woman that represents St. Kate's more than well! I got to meet Meaghan and was lucky enough to ask her a few questions that may be helpful for some of us, in case we're thinking about stepping into Meaghan's shoes one day! 

Q: You’ve made it to the last few days of your senior year. How does it feel?

Meaghan: There’s not really a good way to describe the feeling; it’s very surreal.  I’m very excited to be graduating, and I can’t wait to move to start my graduate school career at Caltech in the fall.  Still, St. Kate’s has been a very special place for me the last four years, there’s so many people that I’m going to miss.  I’m sure that graduation day is going to have more than a few tears and sad goodbyes, but I’m very excited about what’s coming next.  

Q: You seem to be very close with the St. Kate's community, so tell me a little bit about your involvement on campus since you’ve been here?

Meaghan: I’ve definitely tried to immerse myself in science while here at St. Kate’s, and my involvements reflect that.  After finishing my freshman year, I got involved in an undergraduate research and worked in the chemistry department for the summer.  I’ve continued doing research since then, and it’s been one of the best parts about my St. Kate’s experience.  I’ve also been involved in the Chemistry Club, and I’ve been the president for the past 3 years.  Our club started some new events including the Bill Nye Birthday Bash, and it’s been phenomenal to share my excitement for chemistry with fellow chemistry majors and the larger St. Kate’s community.  I also discovered my passion for teaching and sharing knowledge by working at a science tutor in the O’Neill Center and as an Organic Chemistry TA.  

Q:  Which of these involvements would you say was the most challenging and rewarding? What would be a tip you’d give someone who would be stepping into this role?

Meaghan: Being involved in undergraduate research, both at St. Kate’s as well as the University of Minnesota and Northwestern University, has been the most challenging thing that I’ve done during my undergraduate career.  I came into research not really knowing what to expect, and I was overwhelmed at the beginning.  However, the experiences that I’ve had in the lab have been invaluable, and seeing and doing so many types of chemistry has helped me to narrow my chemistry focus as I approach the beginning of graduate school.  Doing research is much different than class projects, and I’ve had a lot more freedom and authority to think creatively, look at the project from different perspectives, and collect real and meaningful scientific results.  

The experience of doing research is so different for everyone, especially depending on the specifics of the project, but it’s always worth it.  For anyone beginning a research project or for those who hope to do research in the future, I’d say go for it!  The beginning is challenging, especially when everything in new, but it gets easier.  Undergraduate research, particularly for students in the science disciplines, is a phenomenal way to prepare for the future.  Go for it, work hard, and don’t give up!

Q: Those are some great tips! Now for fun random questions, what would you say your favorite place on campus is?

Meaghan: Although I’m a chemistry major and I’m partial to Mendel as my favorite building, I also love spending time down by Dew Drop.  It’s always very calm and peaceful down by the pond, and it’s my go-to place when a need to clear my head or get some fresh air.  

Q: If there was a faculty or staff that you wanted to give a shoutout to, who would that be and what would you say?

Meaghan: My chemistry advisor and research mentor, Dr. Janzen, has been phenomenal.  During my freshman year, he convinced me to pursue a chemistry major, and I’ve never looked back.  He helped me to get involved in undergraduate research and we’ve been working on a project for the past 3 years.  He also helped me navigate the graduate school application process (which wasn’t an easy process!), and he’s been an all-around fantastic and supportive professor.  

Q: We are wrapping up the year and you seem to be incredibly smart with your academics. What would you recommend to fellow Katie’s about studying for finals?

Meaghan: It took me several years and many finals to realize this, but the finals week of the semester doesn’t always have to be a miserable, draining experience.  Before things get crazy, I like to make a list of everything that I need to get done, and then I plan a schedule of when I’ll work on each of my papers or study for my exams.  Having a schedule always helps me, and I also like to break up my study session by going for a walk or doing some yoga.  

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add and share with the St. Kate's crowd?

Meaghan: St. Kate’s has been a phenomenal place to be.  There are so many excited students, dedicated professors, and excellent opportunities—it’s hard not to be successful while at St. Kate’s.  If I had to go back and pick a college all over again, St. Kate’s would still be my top choice.  

Meaghan you are an extroardinary person! We, Her Campus St. Kate's, are so happy to have you as one of our Special Senior Spotlights this week. We know you're going to do great things at Caltech and after your graduation there. We also can't wait to see what the next adventures for Lego Meaghan are! Best of luck this finals week and congratulations on all the amazing work you've done at St. Kate's.