Undergraduate Paige Laughlin receives PennACE Student of the Year Award

Gail McCormick
May 14, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Paige Laughlin, a Penn State undergraduate student double-majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology and in nutritional sciences, has been selected to receive the 2017 Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Employers (PennACE) JoAnne Day Student of the Year Award in the technical category.

The award recognizes outstanding students who have completed an internship or co-operative experience in the fields of engineering, computer science, information technology, sciences, or research. Laughlin was selected for her seven-month co-op experience with the Malaria Vaccine Branch at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 2017.

“At WRAIR, I was immersed in an atmosphere that contained cutting-edge science and some of the most supportive and encouraging scientific professionals I have ever met,” said Laughlin. “The most important parts of my experience were the inspirational mentors and friends that have helped, and I know will continue to help, shape my professional goals and career path.”

While at WRAIR, Laughlin worked in the lab of David Lanar on projects evaluating the effectiveness of a malaria vaccine. She received special training and shadowed experts to learn how to detect an animal’s immune response against malaria parasites by analyzing blood samples. She processed more than 1,000 mouse blood samples, which formed the basis of an FDA application requesting permission to test the vaccine in humans. The resulting information was summarized in a manuscript published in the scientific journal Vaccine.

“Having the opportunity to work to improve my lab's malaria vaccine was exhilarating, as was knowing that the work I completed could someday directly affect global health,” said Laughlin. “In addition to gaining insight into each aspect of vaccine development, I have gained confidence in my laboratory skills.”

Laughlin brought her newfound knowledge and confidence to her research at Penn State. She worked for almost three years in the lab of Sarah Ades, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, where she studied antibiotic resistance of the E. coli bacteria.

“I know the confidence and knowledge that I gained while at WRAIR never could have been obtained by simply sitting in the classroom,” she said. Laughlin will graduate in December 2018.

PennACE recognizes students with the Student of the Year Award in honor of career development professional JoAnne Day. Day was an active member of the educational community with a passion for her craft and an incomparable commitment to her students. She passed away in March 2005 after a two-year battle with cancer. In honor of her spirit and dedication, PennACE recognizes students for their excellence in completing their internship or co-op.

Last Updated May 15, 2018