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Where are they now? Middlebury Union High School – Laramie Jensen, 2011

Middlebury Union High School – Laramie Jensen, 2011
Hometown, current residence, age: I am originally from Weybridge, where I spent the majority of my childhood. Currently, I am 23 and I live in College Station, Texas.
Family: Although my parents moved away from Vermont a few years ago, my mom, Alison Byerly, worked at Middlebury College for 27 years as a professor of English and provost of the college for a number of years. My dad, Steve Jensen, was also an active member of the local community and my brother, Ryan Jensen, attended Weybridge Elementary, MUMS and one year of MUHS before they relocated to Easton, Penn.
What I am up to: I currently attend Texas A&M University as a graduate student and will hopefully get my PhD in Oceanography by 2020. As a graduate student in STEM I am paid for this position (although it’s not much!) and I am very fortunate to have well-funded research involving biogeochemical cycling in the Arctic Ocean and the Western Antarctic Peninsula. In fact, last year I was able to go to Antarctica as part of a long-term ecological research (LTER) team. I spent a little over 40 days on a boat sailing around the peninsula taking water samples and enjoying the scenery.
How I got to where I am now: I definitely got to where I am because of where I went to school and what I majored in. I went to undergrad at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and majored in chemistry. Typically, you would want to have some research experience before continuing on to grad school in chemistry and I opted to take a position as a National Science Foundation-funded marine summer science intern at the University of Delaware the summer of 2014 before my senior year at Carleton. I was able to apply my chemistry knowledge and lab skills to the complex cycles in the ocean that fuel life on Earth. This interdisciplinary application of chemistry sealed the deal for me, and after that I knew I only wanted to do chemical oceanography.
I would say that the encouragement of my advisor, Dr. George Luther, at this internship really bolstered my passion for oceanography (a subject not offered in land-locked Minnesota) and my drive to continue on to graduate school.
Adults to whom I can attribute my current success: In terms of other adults who inspired or helped me I would always return to my amazing and incredibly intelligent parents, who have supported my decision to continue with science wholeheartedly. Without them, I would not be where I am. I also have had some amazing high school teachers and college professors. In terms of a MUHS shout-out, Ms. O’Connor (I think she goes by Kirkland now — Lisa Kirkland) who taught calculus when I was a junior and senior really encouraged and inspired me. I didn’t really like or appreciate math until I took Calc I and II with her and that pushed me to take Calc III and Linear Algebra at Middlebury College during my senior year of high school. She really opened my mind to pursuing math, and while I ultimately did not major in math in college I took lots of math while I was at Carleton and thought of her fondly throughout.
How my Vermont roots have influenced who I am today: I have always loved telling people I am from Vermont. Since I went to college and now graduate school well over 1,000 miles from where I grew up, being from Vermont is somewhat of a novelty. I always feel a great connection when I meet a fellow Vermonter and people never hesitate to gush about an awesome ski vacation or whatever that they went on in Vermont or even New Hampshire. I also never thought I would end up in Texas, and I credit that to growing up in Vermont, which is very, very different from Texas.
My memories of high school: High point of MUHS: Senior year winning the Math Departmental Award at graduation and all the hard work it took to get to that point. Low point: I moved to California for one year during my mom’s sabbatical at Stanford University. It was sophomore year and while it was a great year it was surprisingly difficult coming back my junior year to MUHS and falling back into a normal groove with my friends and classes. That was a tough fall semester for me.
My advice for this year’s crop of graduating seniors: I think the best advice I can give a graduating senior is to not be afraid to take risks, like moving far away for school, and definitely to challenge yourself and say yes to promising opportunities. I fell into my current field by keeping a really open mind and not being afraid to say, “Sure, I’ll spend six weeks on a boat with strangers in Antarctica.” I would never have guessed that this is where I would be six years out from high school and I think trying new things and seeking unique opportunities is what got me to where I am. 

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