Barry McNamara  |  Published October 20, 2022

‘More Than Just an Education’

Biology major Lauren Johnson ’23 appreciates the relationships she’s formed through the variety of activities in which she’s participated.

LAUREN JOHNSON: Senior enjoys being in the lab, being active in Pi Beta Phi and many others parts... LAUREN JOHNSON: Senior enjoys being in the lab, being active in Pi Beta Phi and many others parts of her Monmouth College experience.MONMOUTH, Ill. – For Lauren Johnson ’23, a research experience last summer in Iowa helped her better appreciate the strong relationships she’s built at Monmouth College.

The Pekin, Illinois, resident participated in a research experience for undergraduates program at the University of Iowa before starting her senior year at Monmouth. In addition to gaining a wealth of scientific knowledge while being part of what’s known as an REU, the biology major came away from the experience with an even greater appreciation for Monmouth.

“I feel like I’m getting more than just an education at Monmouth,” said Johnson, who is so active in campus activities that it can seem like she’s two places at once. “Most people probably look at me on campus, or they see me walking around, and they’re like, ‘I feel I just saw her.’ That’s probably true, because I am involved in a lot at Monmouth.”


The small school advantage

That’s in contrast, she said, to most of the students she met in her REU at Iowa, including students from bigger universities in California, Florida and Tennessee. Monmouth was the smallest school represented.

As Johnson compared undergraduate experiences with a new circle of friends, she was able to reflect on her diverse experiences at Monmouth and the connections she’s made through them, which has been a highlight of her college education.

“If I had to pick one thing that stands out, it’s all the relationships I’ve formed, whether it’s with people from my hometown that came here to Monmouth or other classmates that I met here that I’ve had friendships with for a couple years now, or faculty relationships.” Lauren Johnson


“If I had to pick one thing that stands out, it’s all the relationships I’ve formed, whether it’s with people from my hometown that came here to Monmouth or other classmates that I met here that I’ve had friendships with for a couple years now, or faculty relationships,” she said. “Yeah, it’s relationships, for sure.”

Those faculty relationships were another reminder to Johnson of the advantages Monmouth has over larger schools.

“There was one girl who went to the University of Tampa, and although she’s taken a variety of different classes within her major, it seemed like she’s had a lot of different professors and hasn’t had the same professor for multiple classes and been able to form that relationship like we do at Monmouth,” said Johnson. “It seemed like my experiences were more personal.”

When she’s not studying biology, Johnson can be found in a number of spots on campus. She’s the COVID-19 testing student supervisor and a member of the swim team and Pi Beta Phi, where she’s had several leadership experiences as a member of the sorority’s executive board. Other positions she’s held include biology lab tech, speech assistant in the communication studies department, first-year mentor and orientation leader.

“I chose Monmouth because I wanted to be just as involved as I was in high school, which is still true to this day,” she said. “Time management has just come naturally, because I’ve always kept myself busy and always been involved. Academics and grades come first, so that’s always been a main thing to get done for the day.”


Loving the lab

On the academic side, Johnson worked at the University of Iowa on a project titled “The Role of Capicua (a.k.a. CIC) in the Antiviral Gene Promoter TRIM22.”

RIGHT AT HOME: Lauren Johnson envisions a future where being in the laboratory and conducting res... RIGHT AT HOME: Lauren Johnson envisions a future where being in the laboratory and conducting research is her daily routine.“Each REU student was paired with a professor in different lab settings,” she said. “Each professor focuses on a different research topic. The professor that I was paired with focused on influenza and the antiviral responses within the body, so that’s what a lot of my project was focused on.”

At Monmouth, Johnson has worked with biology professor James Godde on a project involving microbulbifer variabilis, which is isolated from Pacific marine algae.

“I think one of the main things I learned during my summer experience – besides getting the amazing opportunities to do advanced graduate-level research at a bigger university – was the different options I have post-Monmouth,” said Johnson. “I learned about graduate school options and how to apply, but also if I don’t want to pursue more school, there’s a lot of different job opportunities.”

In particular, Johnson said she learned about the research assistant position at different universities and colleges.

“With my experiences at Monmouth and at the University of Iowa, it’s definitely shown me that I do want to work in a lab,” she said. “I love the laboratory environment. So definitely continuing research in any way that I can is what I hope to do after Monmouth.”


What COVID taught her

Johnson has also taken away lessons from her work with the College’s COVID testing center, which she joined when it first began on campus in the spring semester of 2021.


“I feel like having that social aspect and being involved in a lot of different things makes college what it is, and it makes it fun and enjoyable.” Lauren Johnson


“I have definitely said to my mentees and to a lot of new students and transfers, ‘Get out of your room, because there was a time on this campus when we were told to stay in our rooms. We could only go out if we had classes in person or if we were going to the caf to get our meals to go.’”

That ties into Johnson’s main takeaway from her time at Monmouth.

“There’s also a social aspect when it comes to college, and I feel like if you’re stuck in your books and academics and grades, it might get a little boring,” she said. “I feel like having that social aspect and being involved in a lot of different things makes college what it is, and it makes it fun and enjoyable.”

Listen Up …

Lauren Johnson ’23 discusses the advantages of her Monmouth experience on the “Monmouth Conversations” podcast.

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