Emily Lugos ’20, chemistry Twitter
One may think a chemist and a poet speak two different languages: The scientist’s thinking is literal and grounded in facts; the poet’s expressions are imaginative and emotional. Lugos not only embodies both identities, she demonstrates how the interplay between both sides of her brain enhances her work. As a chemistry major, Lugos conducts computational chemistry research related to the study of brown carbon pollutants in the atmosphere with Heidi Hendrickson, assistant professor of chemistry. Her work, in collaboration with Prof. Melissa Galloway’s research group, was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal ACS Earth and Space Chemistry. As an English minor, Lugos is able to nurture her love for poetry and creative writing. In both 2017 and 2019, Lugos won the College’s prestigious Jean Corrie Poetry Prize.
Lugos’ skills as a poet have helped her communicate as a scientist. In her EXCEL Scholar presentation, she wanted to ensure her audience could understand her research, so she used a hopscotch demonstration to explain a complex concept involving electron excitations. “Some of the computational chemistry work I do involves complex ideas, like quantum theory, and that can be scary,” Lugos says. “Poetry is about the ability to break down language and break down complex ideas.” In the classroom as a teaching assistant, she helps struggling students think about chemical concepts from an entirely different angle.
Lugos, a first-generation college student, is planning to pursue a career in marine science. She is contemplating taking a gap year in order to fulfill a desire to work with children from underprivileged communities and encourage them to pursue STEM fields.
She credits Lafayette, and Hendrickson in particular, for pushing her out of her comfort zone. “I was such a control freak before coming to college,” she says. “I had to re-train my brain to understand that it’s OK if you make a mistake, because that’s how you learn and grow. It’s a new mindset for me, and it’s been freeing. I feel blissful.”