World-traveling biologist: 'It's not too late'.

Author:Caywood, Thomas
Position:Local
 
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Byline: Thomas Caywood

WORCESTER -- At a typical college graduation, the mothers and fathers mostly sit in the audience, clapping and cheering for their twentysomething children up on stage receiving diplomas.

At Quinsigamond Community College's graduation Thursday evening, though, plenty of working parents and older students seeking better career opportunities sat on the floor of the DCU Center wearing black robes.

It was fitting, then, that their commencement speaker, world-traveling molecular biologist Sandra Laney, originally from Spencer, was herself a young mother aiming for better prospects when she graduated from QCC in 1992.

Ms. Laney, global health discovery program officer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, told the graduates about the profound impact a simple question had on her life and career.

At the time, she had enough credits to graduate from QCC with a degree in studio arts, but she was hung up on the science requirement needed to finish her degree.

Biology, chemistry and physics seemed impossibly difficult for the artistic-minded young mother, so she signed up instead for a special, self-paced class for those intimidated by science.

To her astonishment, Ms. Laney found she excelled at the discipline and enjoyed seeking after the answers that science allows. She went from being intimidated by science to excited by it.

When she was ready to graduate, a trusted professor asked her what she planned to do next.

Ms. Laney recalled telling the professor that, if she had to do over again, she'd get into genetics.

Then came the question that would redirect the trajectory of her life from a small-town girl in central Massachusetts with small horizons to a scientist who has traveled extensively from remote African villages to the teeming urban centers of India.

When she expressed a wistful regret about not having pursued science in her education, her professor asked, "So, why don't you?''

"He told me that day, 'It's not too late,' '' Ms. Laney recalled.

And it wasn't. She went on to Smith College, where she got a bachelor's degree. While working, she later got a master's degree by attending classes part time. Then a doctorate.

She urged the roughly 700 graduates present at commencement, out of about 1,370 total students who earned associate's degrees and certificates, to listen to themselves and take note if they ever started wishing they had followed a dream, or taken a different path.

"Ask yourself,'' Ms. Laney said, " 'So, why don't you?' ''

ASSOCIATE IN APPLIED SCIENCE

Ashburnham: Jason Pioli

Athol: Kevin Swan

Auburn: Michael Cronin, Todd Gingras, Belinda Melanson

Berlin: William Haley

Fitchburg: Gino DiPrima

Gardner: Ryan Berg

Holden: Mazen Najjar, Pradeep Sharma

Leominster: Larry Beaulac

Millbury: Dana Bonin

North Grafton: Jeffrey Schroeder

Spencer: John Parenteau

Sutton: Matthew McGrail

Thompson: Brian St. Germain

Worcester: Anthony Asselta, Richard Son

ASSOCIATE IN ARTS

Auburn: Marissa Cataldo, Sarah Dulmaine, John Gokey, Neftali Gonzalez, Meghan Macchi, Bryan McConville, Carrie Orth, Felicisimo Reyes, Joseph Rzucidlo, Zarnigar Shairani, Robert Wrona

Barre: Lauren Chumsae, Sarah Melanson

Blackstone: Caitlyn Edwards

Bolton: Scott Lovington, Austin Parker, Nicholas Riseman, Caitlin Wood

Boylston: Shannon Cote, Renjuan Dutczak

Brimfield: Jordan Castle, Emily Jones

Brookfield: Ashley Karrmann, Holly Sasseville

Charlton: Audrea Anctil, Robert Berk, Stephen Bjorn, Catherine Desmarais, Jenahquil Figueroa, Stephanie Kozlowski

Charlton City: Rebecca Peach

Cherry Valley: Elizabeth Annunziata, Brooke Breault, Benjamin Henriquez, Kristen Stuart

Clinton: Corbett Ashe, Maggie Haley, Kerri McCarthy, Sarah Morin, Stephanie Traylor, Stefanie Trott

Dudley: Grace Briggs, Tyler Kane, Stephanie Moore, Helena Perpetuo, Kayla Quigley, Vanessa Roy

East Brookfield: Zainab Chreim, Annie Sandoli

East Douglas: Kathryn Bowen, Haley Davidson, Gabrielle Gurney, Lisa LaFortune, Theresa Werme

Fiskdale: Samantha Evans, Jacquelyn Marinelli

Fitchburg: Jacklyn Kerrins

Gardner: Kacie LaRoche

Grafton: Brendan Coleman, Amanda Smith, Rebecca Wisniewski

Holden: Jennifer DeWitt, Connor Doherty, Zachary Duguay, Joan Gulick, Michael Henschel, Evan Kelley, Dana Mallah, Jeffrey Marlowe, Jenny Parker, Sungho Yoon

Holland: Jared Curboy, Sean Kennedy

Hopedale: Cortney Thompson, Isao Yoshioka

Hudson: Jacob Chatfield, Casey Coolidge, Kimberly Lawrence, Caitryn Murphy

Jefferson: Lisa Arsenault, Benjamin Beckner, Alicia Pelletier, Stephen Phillips

Lancaster: Julia Duffin, Amelia McCullen

Leicester: Marilyn Burlingame, Brooke Herbst, Katlyn Jarobski, Robert Jarobski, Evan LaBrie, Alexandria Laflamme, Jennifer Lotti, Russell Rivers, Kimberley Vessio

Leominster: Gina Bilotta, Jarlisa Johnson, Emily Malcolmson, Gina Tardiff, Natassia Yahoub

Marlborough: Tuanny Arruda, Justin Burke, Kelli Chiasson, Keri Chiasson, Zoe Dixon, Andrew Gorman, Anthony Minasian, Christen Papile, Jonathan Parreira

Mendon: Damian Victor

Milford: Kayleigh Stanton

Millbury: Careena Connors, Valeria De Oliveira, Sean Dickman, Beth Harrington, Kathleen King, Heidi Mason, Jason McKinney, Haley Miller, Diana Reilly, Ixchel Tattersall-Malaver, Stephanie Walsh

Millville: Amanda Renault

New Braintree: Alexander Fiske

North Brookfield: Hannah Forgit, Brittney Huston, Nicole Styles

North Grafton: Ashley Ide

North Oxford: Nicholle Bem, Bonnie-Lee Desrosiers

Northboro: Lindsey Arsenault, Jennifer Dell'Arciprete, Jessica Kelly, Jeffrey Serapiglia

Northbridge: Leah Andrews, JamieLynn Brooks

Oakham: Victoria Bollivar

Oxford: Deborah Boudreau, Jaclyn Cheever, Nancy Day, Brenna Deviney, Meghan Givner, Brittney Guillotte, Natalie Marcotte, Boateng Owusu, Amanda Powell, Marco Santana, John Sullivan, Darrien Tempro, Corissa Walls

Paxton: Bouthaina Bitar, Alexander Culafi, Michael O'Donoghue, Isa Shehu

Princeton: Natalie Ackerman

Putnam: Katharine Warner

Rochdale: Gabrielle Aguiar, Michelle Aldonis, Marlise Grammatic, Julia Letourneau

Rutland: Jason Buerlen, Andrew Frechette, Brian Meagher, Kayla Pepin

Shrewsbury: Carly Dowen, Salam Elsakka, Andrew Favuzza, Michelle Ferro, Janee Hinojos, Alyssa Hite, Hyun-Gyu Kim, Jennifer Lopes, Thomas Navin...

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