College marshal composes both musical compositions, chemical equations

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- What happens when a student has strong interests in two vastly different fields of study? How does the student choose a path? Josh Laughner decided not to choose and successfully pursued degrees in both chemistry and music.

Laughner, a resident of Wadsworth, Ohio, recently graduated as the Penn State College of Arts and Architecture student marshal, having earned the highest overall grade-point average in the college. He earned a bachelor of music composition in addition to a bachelor of science in chemistry from the Eberly College of Science.

“When I started as a freshman, I intended to pursue a musical career, eventually earning a position as a faculty composer. But as I entered higher level courses, I realized that I didn’t want to give up chemistry, either,” Laughner said. “I’m excited that I had the opportunity to continue learning more about chemistry, and simultaneously had incredibly creative freedom in my composition.”

A Schreyer Honors Scholar, Laughner has been active in both the School of Music and Department of Chemistry. He was a trumpet student of Professor Langston Fitzgerald, as well as a member of the composition studio, studying with associate professor Paul Barsom.

According to Barsom, Laughner has grown as both performer and composer. “His gift to us has been the way he has taken everything we have offered him and used it to metamorphose into a composer with a large collection of finely crafted work and a performer who is a leader in the trumpet studio. His example reminds me to work hard to liberate the potential of every student that enters my studio.”

Laughner has received numerous honors, including the College of Arts and Architecture’s 2012 Golumbic Scholarship Award; the Chemistry Department’s Teas Scholarship; a 3M Summer Research Fellowship in 2012; Pentz Memorial Academic Scholarship; and Evan Pugh Scholar Award. He was a winner in the Symphonic Wind Ensemble’s 2013 Concerto Competition. He is a member of Pi Kappa Lambda Music Honor Society, Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

Laughner will continue his education in chemistry, working toward a doctorate in physical chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley. He plans to continue to pursue both performance and composition by connecting with a community orchestra, student ensemble and composition faculty at UC Berkeley.

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Last Updated January 10, 2014