On Feb. 8, the College of Science hosted an event on campus with many alumni, friends, faculty and students. Attendees had the pleasure of hearing from Lauren Skrajewski, an undergraduate student in Chemistry. She is a special Tiger and we are proud to highlight her remarks here. Enjoy the wonderful beginning of Lauren’s Clemson story.

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Chemistry undergrad Lauren Skrajewski stands with advisor, Dr. Carlos Garcia inside the Life Sciences Facility.

Chemistry undergrad Lauren Skrajewski stands with her advisor, Dr. Carlos Garcia, inside the Life Sciences Facility.
Image Credit: University Relations

Good evening, I would like to thank you for your time that you dedicated to this program. Although this college is new, Clemson’s long-standing commitment to undergraduates remains. Your support has and will continue to make the unparalleled Clemson experience possible for our students. My name is Lauren Skrajewski and I am here to share my Clemson story with you. My experience is relevant locally for the nearest communities, which serve as the foundation for my success. This same experience is globally impactful for the scientific community. I am a senior chemistry major, and our program here at Clemson has prepared me to select a Ph.D. program of my choice. I am excited to start graduate school in the fall.

I chose to come to Clemson from New Jersey because of the known academic excellence and family-oriented reputation. After arriving at Clemson, my path changed as I learned what fit me better. I began my freshman year studying Chemical Engineering. A year later, I was unhappy and confused with my engineering classes and too afraid to ask for advice. I am sure most of you went through a version of this in your college careers. Luckily, my chemistry professor, Dr. Ennis, sat down with me to discuss my dilemma, along with my overall goals and passions beyond academia. He then suggested to take a look at the chemistry department and curriculum, so I previewed what changing my major would mean. You might have had a professor like Dr. Ennis, a dedicated and committed faculty member who ensures that students are the top priority. The Clemson culture is genuine and personal and this community aspect is a large part of the Clemson tradition.

This change was one of the most difficult decisions I made here at Clemson, but Dr. Ennis connected me to the best opportunities available. After I made the change, the chemistry department welcomed me with open arms. I was immediately put in contact with eager research professors, other chemistry students and advising sessions. I was also constantly connected by emails from Kris Coleman to employment and research opportunities. Something here was different: I was home.

I enjoy working with the mechanics of chemistry instruments, so I sought out Dr. Garcia, who has been my research advisor for over a year now. He has not only provided me with research I am passionate about, but also connections to collaborative projects, internships, and an REU (research experience for undergraduates). These opportunities led to my acceptance into three incredible graduate programs so far: Michigan State, Vanderbilt, and Clemson. Dr. Garcia has taught me the importance of work ethic, presentation skills, and the importance of meeting different people. Right now in the lab, we have a graduate student from Brazil and a summer program in Brazil to which Clemson students can travel and make those connections with peers at other universities.

In the field of science, the need for connections is astounding. Expanding ideas and collaborative efforts are how Nobel Prize discoveries and award-winning ideas are created. Clemson understands and encourages building these connections, inside and outside of research. What you get from amazing connections is this sense of community, and community is a tradition of the Clemson Family. Without talking to Dr. Ennis and realizing I could fit in the chemistry community, I would not have been connected to Chemistry club, College of Science Ambassadors, the undergraduate teaching assistant program, and in the position to pursue a Ph.D. I have grown as a woman and as a scientist because of these connections.

When I graduate in May, it is my community that I will miss the most. Looking back on my time at Clemson, I will see the foundation that I built and how transformative it has been for my life. Right now, the College of Science is developing incredible programs to involve Alumni in helping guide undergraduates. Tiger Net enables Clemson students to connect with Clemson Alumni for jobs, advice, and more. Tigers on Call is another resource for Alumni to aid undergraduates, especially with health care professional insight. I hope any Alumni here will consider participating in these two terrific resources to further connections and community in our Clemson Family network.

The most impactful lesson I will take away from Clemson is the importance of connection. Where there are connections, there is community. Thank you very much for your time and your support of this wonderful Clemson community.

Lauren Skrajewski