It wouldn’t really be enough to say that Haley Varnum ‘19 is a jack-of-all-trades.
Sure, she’s doing almost everything a student can do in four years at Bryn Mawr College: pursuing a chemistry and math double major, participating in three different sports as a student athlete, completing bioinorganic research in the lab of Dean of the Graduate School and Professor of Chemistry Sharon Burgmayer, and working towards a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree. On top of her combined A.B./M.A., Haley’s even looking to join a combined M.D./Ph.D. program after graduation (if you’re noticed a pattern here, you’re not the only one; Haley joked that “I didn't intend that to be a thing.”)
That’s a lot, but on top of it all, Haley’s now also the recipient of a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for 2018.
The award, given by the U.S. Congress to sophomores and juniors to finance the last two to three years of their undergraduate education in the sciences, is a pretty big deal for the chemistry department: Haley’s the first chem major to receive the award, and the first Bryn Mawr student to receive it since 2011. And Haley’s excited about it too because it will allow her to continue her research in Professor Burgmayer’s lab, one of the highlights of her time at Bryn Mawr.
“There's something to be said for an activity that's very simultaneously mentally engaging and physically engaging,” Haley says of working in the lab. “I have to pay attention to the way my hands are moving, I have to be very precise with my body motions. You know, if your hands are in a glove box or a hood for four hours, working on reactions, you have to have a lot of control and a lot of stamina. At the same time, I'm simultaneously having to think critically and solve puzzles and think on the fly and I think it's very rare to find activities that both require physical and mental concentration on that level.”
A member of the cross country, indoor, and outdoor track teams, Haley finds that her academic and athletic pursuits support each other.
“I'm an 800 meter runner and a 400 meter hurdler. I think I tend to run best when I'm thinking and I tend to think best when I'm moving, so it all combines pretty well,” she says.
Over the summer, Haley will be doing more research in Professor Burgmayer’s lab, and beginning research for her master’s thesis. She also plans to work in a lab after graduation, before beginning the long process of getting her combined M.D./Ph.D. (you just can’t get this girl out of the lab!). And after that?
“I plan on doing basic biochemical research that has a significant application to human health, preferably women's health because that's what I'm really passionate about,” Haley says. “I love basic scientific research, the fundamentals of how things work, but I also care about the 'so what?' And I want to do my part to push that forward.”