During her time at Meredith College, student-athlete Lara Pantlin, ’14, funneled her creativity into undergraduate research, which is now a big part of her life as a Ph.D. candidate.
As an Honors student at Meredith, Lara majored in psychology and minored in biology. Her fields of study gave her the knowledge she needed to successfully complete her internship at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). At the EPA, Lara studied the developing visual systems of rats exposed to different concentration levels of gasoline and ethanol.
Advised by Cynthia Edwards, head of the Department of Psychology and Social Work, Lara also conducted research for the Meredith Emerging Adulthood Longitudinal Study (MEALS), a research program comprising of two overlapping longitudinal studies aimed at understanding the role of family and peer support in mediating the stressors associated with early adult life transitions. As a principal investigator and lab supervisor for MEALS, Lara helped create opportunities for other students to conduct research in the ongoing program.
“Having the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Edwards as an adviser [gave] me the opportunity to understand how to take on the role of advising,” Lara said.
Lara presented her research at the State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research & Creativity Symposium (SNCURCS), and published her article in Explorations, a journal dedicated to publishing the research of undergraduate students in North Carolina.
While pursuing scholarly research, Lara managed to stay active around campus. She was a student assistant and ambassador for the Office of International Programs, and was a member of Spectrum and several honor societies. In the psychology department, Lara worked as a tutor and teacher’s assistant in statistics and research methods courses.
Lara’s triumphs continued on the cross country course. As senior captain, she led the Avenging Angels to the program's first-ever USA South Championship title and was named the team's Most Valuable Runner for her efforts. In 2014, Lara was presented with the USA South Woman of the Year award; she was also a top-30 honoree for the NCAA Woman of the Year, becoming the second USA South candidate to receive the honor.
"Receiving the USA South Woman of the Year award is a great honor," Lara said. "To be among the top-30 NCAA honorees and to be compared to the other great women honored with this award is just incredible.”
During her senior year, Lara was named Outstanding Senior in Psychology and was recognized as a Top 10 Most Outstanding Senior of the Class of 2014. She graduated Magna Cum Laude and was accepted to the prestigious cognitive neuroscience Ph.D. program at Colorado State University, taking her one step closer toward her dream of becoming a professor.
In 2016, Lara earned her M.A. in cognitive neuroscience. She is currently working toward her doctoral degree. She has completed research projects in neurotoxicology, neuropsychology, social psychology, and cognitive neuroscience, and has published multiple papers in psychology.
“What’s most fun about research is that I get to be totally creative,” Lara said. “The end process of having that tangible presentation from your research is the scariest part, but also the best part.”
By Donna Bahena, ’18