Christian Laurent enjoys showing off the UGA campus he loves to prospective students as a Visitors Center tour guide, and he plans to become a physician and scientist to pursue public health and bridge the gap between science and cultural diversity.
North Gwinnett High School
The University of Georgia Visitors Center but known to many as the “Happiest Place on Campus.” I truly cannot call this a job because of the joy I feel upon entering the doors of the Visitors Center. There is a reason they call this the happiest place on campus. From grabbing lunch with my bosses like Mr. Eric Johnson, Ms. Terri Franks, Ms. Natalie Mann or Ms. Tanya to giving Friday afternoon tours to almost 80 visitors, there’s no better way to show my love for this university than being a tour guide. It’s an honor to work with some of the best and brightest students on campus and I appreciate how unique each and every one of them is on and off campus.
Family ties to UGA:
The closest connection I had to the University of Georgia were the Bulldog mascots between my high school and university! Other than that, I have zero family ties to UGA. Hopefully, my younger brother ends up attending UGA, so we can strengthen our tie to the university.
B.S. in Biology and A.B. in Spanish
University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
The University of Georgia offers an ocean of opportunities. If you have an idea, there will be someone who will believe in you to make it become reality. No matter the program, the people of this town are what make Athens so special and I am grateful to call this university my home.
My beginning at UGA happens to start in the residence hall called Lipscomb Hall in the Hill Community. As a freshman, my close friend Miles Pak and I moved into here because of its location on campus and the sink in the room! Even though there are 21 residence halls on campus we knew this had to be the best one (ask someone else and they might say another residence hall!). I also joined the Delta Tau Delta fraternity on campus. This was one of the many niches I found while at this university that allowed me to grow into a successful collegiate man. It was comforting to know I could talk to older students who could offer advice on any decision no matter its significance. I was so moved by those brothers that I became the 2nd Vice President of Academic Affairs where I helped newly initiated members achieve scholastic success while helping brothers who needed guidance on their academics. This executive board position allowed me to earn the Interfraternity Council Merit Scholarship and acceptance into the Greek Sophomore Leaders Circle, where some of the best Greek Life’s leaders could enhance their personal and leadership development.
At the end of my first semester of my freshman year, I applied and was accepted into the Honors Program. Here, I was able to expand upon my opportunities on many different aspects on campus and abroad. Before my freshman year ended, I also had the opportunity to join a laboratory under Dr. Jin Xie in the department of chemistry through the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities assistantship. I never thought of research as a potential career interest, but this experience sparked a passion for investigating and discovering the unknown.
After my freshman year, I decided to stay in Athens for the summer and take an Organic Chemistry course. No matter what you do, try to stay in Athens for at least one summer. It was exciting to take this course with many of my friends I made earlier that year. I enjoyed the subject of chemistry and I knew these were both difficult courses, so I took the initiative to become a co-teacher assistant for Honors General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry for the next several semesters.
As a sophomore, I wanted to continue and give back to the community in Athens and abroad. During my sophomore year, I joined the UGA Rotaract Club. This service organization encouraged members to go out in the Athens community and volunteer at events at the Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity. We also raised money for food and school supplies and for a humanitarian trip to Terrier Rouge, Haiti, during our spring break. Even though I have been to my mother’s country of Nicaragua several times before, this was my first time traveling to my father’s country, so I also took the time to deepen my roots of my culture that week. On campus, I was selected as an ambassador for the Georgia Recruitment Team under the Admissions office. Here, other ambassadors and I have had the chance share our experiences since our time here at UGA and how this school has molded us for success after graduation. I also became a scholar and freshman mentor for the Louis Stokes Alliance Minority Participation organization. This program accelerates and reinforces the commitment of under-represented students to earn a bachelor’s degree and to pursue graduate study or employment in a STEM-related field. And during my senior year, I was awarded the Black Faculty and Staff Organization Scholarship based on my impactful leadership toward service in the African-American community.
As an aspiring doctor, I also knew I wanted to be more involved in the Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Medical Honor Society, so I ran and have now been president for two years. This organization has allowed me to develop my intellectual and professional abilities in the field of health care. Our chapter recently had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., for the 42nd Alpha Epsilon Delta Biennial Convention. We networked with AED members from across the nation, learned how to implement more activities to benefit our members, and listened to speakers such as the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson. During my time as president of Alpha Epsilon Delta, I also was selected as a recipient for the Pre-Med Magazine Leara Scholarship based on my merit and leadership success on campus.
While I know that I want to work in the field of health care and research, I have always valued the importance of speaking different languages. In my home, I have heard English, Spanish, Haitian Creole and French. So, I decided to study the second-most spoken language in the United States, Spanish. No matter if I am speaking with my parents in our home in Suwanee, Georgia, or at the “Las Ramblas” markets of Barcelona, Spain, I know speaking another is a skill that is so (also it’s nice I can finally speak to my great-grandmother without having my parents translate for me!).
As a Spanish major, I knew I had to make it a priority to study abroad, so I applied and was accepted into the UGA en España Program where I had the opportunity to travel to Valencia, Spain. Thanks to the Honors International Scholarship from the Honors Program, I was fortunate enough to receive financial support for my program and flight costs. While in Valencia, I took courses in Spanish literature and business Spanish taught by University of Valencia faculty for seven weeks. This trip provided endless opportunities to immerse myself in the Spanish academic and social life. During that summer, there was a European soccer tournament so watching some of the best national soccer teams play while in Spain is an experience I will never forget. After these seven weeks, seven friends and I traveled to nine countries around Europe where I know we all deepened our cultural diversity of the world. By the end of the trip, I had traveled to Spain, Italy, Vatican City, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands and France. This would be considered a once in a lifetime experience, but I know UGA has equipped me with the right skills to travel abroad long after graduation.
During my junior year, I had the opportunity to represent the University of Georgia and become a tour guide through the UGA Visitors Center. Here, I have been able to speak with prospective students about my success on campus while also guiding them to the right programs bases on their interests. At the end of my junior year, I was able to join another laboratory under Dr. Sheba M.J. MohanKumar and Dr. Puliyur S. MohanKumar in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Here, our laboratory studies the interaction of endocrine disrupting chemicals on the immune, nervous and endocrine systems and its implications for both human and animal health. I continued to take partake in the laboratory throughout the summer while also taking courses in microbiology and cognitive neuroscience (and finally taking the MCAT!). It was a busy summer, but living in Athens for a second time was just as wonderful as the first time.
During my senior year, I dove more into my research by presenting our findings to the science community. Thanks to the funding of the CURO Assistantship Program, the Peach State LSAMP organization, and moral support from my parents (thank you!!!) I was able to present research at the STEM Innovators Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, the National Collegiate Research Conference at Harvard College in Boston, Massachusetts, and at the Emerging Researchers National Conference in Washington, D.C. And by the end of the semester, I will have presented at the annual CURO Symposium and the Regenerative Bioscience Center Symposium, both in Athens.
And during my senior year, I had the opportunity to be a part of the Southeastern Conference Commercial! I did not know they were going to choose my scene to end the commercial, so it is something I will truly always remember. It was such an amazing feeling to see the Dawgs play on Saturdays, in the Rose Bowl, and the National Championship and see that commercial air on national television.
I chose to attend UGA because …
Looking back, I really never had a particular reason to go to the University of Georgia. When I was a junior and senior in high school, I did not know anything about the countless opportunities the university offered before my enrollment. After I took my official tour of the UGA campus, I just knew this would be the best place for me. You could take out all the programs and buildings on this campus, and I would still want to attend this university. The community of this university and town is spectacular and I know you just cannot get that at any other school.
My favorite things to do on campus are …
There is nothing better than giving an official campus tour on a beautiful afternoon. I don’t think I will ever get tired of watching prospective students’ mouths drop while we go through buildings like the Miller Learning Center or after we ring the bell at the Chapel during the tour. I also enjoy passing by Sanford Stadium. I always get chills by how 92,746 can fit into the stadium during a Saturday in Athens.
When I have free time, I like …
When I have free time, I like to go to the Athens Area Humane Society and help them with their animals. The Humane Society has a program where you can foster dogs and help raise them until they are ready to be adopted. At this point, I have helped raise four puppies in the past two years. For someone who did not have any animals in his house, this experience made me realize how much I missed out on having a dog in my home. I definitely will be adopting a dog from them in the near future. (Unless my mom beats me to now adopting one!)
I also like to go running. Two of my close friends, Mihir John and Anna Schramski, and I trained last semester for the AthHalf, the half marathon race held in Athens every fall. This definitely was a new challenge for me, but I am so glad we did this all together because I know I could not have done this alone.
And when I have some time, and enough cash, I like to go eat at Cali-n-Titos with some of my close friends. Coming from a Hispanic and Afro-Caribbean background, it definitely is on the top of my list for the best food in Athens. If I am low on cash, I love to get a bowl of pho at the Just Pho & More restaurant with my best friend Diane Tran. And if I am just out of money, my friends and I like to host potlucks, which is when all of us cook individual dishes and share them with each other. So, you can tell, I like to eat a variety of food!
The craziest thing I’ve done is …
… go to Boston during one random weekend in February 2017. During my junior year, I remember my friends Diane Tran, Heather Street, Mihir John and Anna Schramski buying airplane tickets days before their departure and I knew that I did not want to miss something this fun! I had a physics and linguistics test that next week, which is why I was hesitant at first, but decided to study before we left, so I could enjoy the weekend. It actually snowed so much that weekend in Boston that all flights back to Atlanta were canceled! There was a huge snowstorm, which was why everything was canceled, but we all did not like the idea of missing school (plus I had those two tests too!). I remember we were all huddled in a Starbucks in the city looking for some way to try and get back to Atlanta before class on Monday. Frankly, we all hated the fact that we were going to miss class, but we made best with what we were handed and enjoyed that extra day in snowy Boston. Even though this may not have been the “craziest” thing I’ve done, it is definitely the craziest turn of events I will remember forever.
My favorite place to study is …
… any location my friends and I can find where we can do our work. I study best by learning the concepts on my own and then discussing the topics with friends. That way, those concepts can be cemented into my brain. Plus, I enjoy how my friends and I take the time to teach each other concepts some of us may struggle through during that day. When the Miller Learning Center or the science library is pretty packed, I like to study somewhere in downtown Athens in either Walker’s Pub or Starbucks. And I quickly learned that if I study at home, I somehow magically end up falling asleep on my bed.
My favorite professor is …
This has to be the toughest question because every professor I have had has truly pushed me to become the person I am today. I really cannot just pick one because even though they may have taught one of my required courses, every professor I have had has shown me how they view life whether I know it or not. Here are just a few of the MANY professors I know who have made an impact on my life.
My favorite professor during my freshman year was Dr. Charles Kutal, a professor in the department of chemistry. I had just been accepted into the UGA Honors Program and his freshman Chemistry II course was my first honors class. Freshman chemistry definitely has to be one of the hardest freshman courses, but Dr. Kutal made the class less of the lecture and more of a discussion. He was so enthusiastic and zealous that I had the opportunity to become a teacher assistant for him the following year and teach students every week during the three-hour laboratory session.
During my sophomore year, I took a biology seminar led by Dr. Karl Espelie. Every week before class started, students would go around the room and introduce themselves to the rest of the class before the speaker would begin their presentation that week. Dr. Espelie quickly became my advisor and my friend. I am so lucky to call him a friend now and long after graduation. Dr. Espelie saw confidence in me that I did not know I had and he pushed me to aim for greater ambitions in my life. Whether we are in his office on campus or at the Grit in downtown Athens eating dinner, Dr. Espelie has and will never hesitate to lend a hand and I am so grateful to have met him during my time here at University of Georgia.
During my junior year, I took my first physics course with Mr. Alfred Farris. A couple of weeks before the class began, there was a switch in teachers for this class, so many of the students, including myself, were very skeptical of a professor who did not have any reviews on those teacher rating websites. Yet, after that first lecture, I knew Mr. Farris’ passion for the course would help with learning all the material throughout the course. He made a notoriously difficult course become something that was fun to learn.
During this time, I also wanted to return to research, so I joined a research laboratory under Dr. Sheba M.J. MohanKumar and Dr. Puliyur S. MohanKumar in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Their work drew me to their lab, but their compassionate and warm-hearted personalities are what sealed the deal. Their caring and supportive personalities make it easy for any member of the lab to pursue any independent project. They even pushed me to pursue opportunities outside of lab presenting at conferences in Athens, Atlanta, Boston and Washington, D.C.
And as a senior, my favorite professor would have to be my Latino Literature, Language, and Culture professor from the department of Romance languages, Mr. Leonard Ward. Mr. Ward seamlessly wraps up everything I have learned in Spanish and makes it applicable to the real world. Also, I have developed a strong interest in cellular biology from a course taught by Dr. Schulz, Dr. Vasant and Ms. Jenna Wingfield. Every science major at this university knows the challenging nature of this course, but all of them break the concepts down clearly to the students that is easy and enjoyable to learn.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with …
… the Uber driver my friends and I met while in Vienna, Austria. When we got into his car to go to the train station, he started playing reggae music, which happens to be one of my favorite genres of music. We started talking about our love for the culture and the next thing I know, he said he was an Austrian who would spend his summers in Jamaica, and was actually in Nine Mile, Jamaica, for the funeral of reggae legend Bob Marley in 1981. Even though this was only a 10-minute Uber ride, I definitely could spend an entire afternoon with him. And if I couldn’t do it with him, I would share an afternoon with the greatest soccer player of all time, Lionel Messi. Also, Barack and Michelle Obama would be an actual once in a lifetime opportunity. You know what, scratch that, let’s just bring all of these amazing people into one big room for lunch! Now, that would make for a very interesting afternoon.
If I knew I could not fail, I would …
… like to trace my ancestry back to its beginning. My mother is Nicaraguan and my father is Haitian, so I have learned a lot about their history, but I would love to learn about the earlier lineage of my heritage and continue to embrace the rich culture of my ancestry. I recently took a DNA ancestry test, so I learned a little more about my heritage, but I would love to draw a huge ancestry tree and learn about my family members’ lives.
If money was not a consideration, I would love to …
… open up my own barber shop. Throughout the past four years, I have been getting my haircut at a local Athens community shop called Sheat’s Barber and Beauty Shop. The environment in there is so organic and full of culture that it makes me want to start my own shop. I think every day would be different because there would always be new people walking in and out of the shop.
What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?
I am committed to bridging the gap between science and medicine for minority communities. I want to be a culturally connected physician who comprehends peoples’ lives and challenges as much as their clinical needs. I know I want to obtain a Master of Public Health as well as an M.D. degree to further my education outside of the operating room. Furthermore, I plan on continuing my research on Bisphenol-A and its derivatives in search for safe and eco-friendly plastic products. Also, I am very passionate about teaching. Hopefully during my career I can become a professor or dean in medical academia and teach cultural competence courses and guide medical students through whichever specialty I eventually dedicate myself to after medical school.
After graduation, I plan to …
… attend medical school. My desire to become a physician and scientist goes past treatment and research. I want to pursue public health because as the makeup of this nation grows, I know I owe it to my family and community to be someone who can bridge the gap between science and cultural diversity. Even though every patient may be different, I know my colorful background and experience as a doctor in medicine and public health will help eradicate this global inequality.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be …
There are way too many UGA experiences to choose only one.
One experience I will always remember was a weekend trip my Valencia study abroad group took to the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain. I am a huge FC Barcelona fan so just having the chance to tour through the stadium is an experience I will not forget. Hopefully, I can soon make it back and actually watch FC Barcelona play in one of the biggest soccer stadiums in the world.
I will always remember the 2017 Southeastern Conference Championship game against Auburn University. It felt great to get revenge back from earlier that season, but it felt even better to watch the game live in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. It was also spectacular to see the Southeastern Conference commercial I had been a part of play on the jumbo screen.
I’ll also always remember my time ringing the Chapel bell on North Campus after the Dawgs won the 2017 Rose Bowl. Without a doubt, that was the most intense game I have ever watched (I’m choosing to not remember the National Championship, but that was a good game too!), so going to campus and seeing thousands of people from the entire Athens community go crazy downtown and go ring the bell is a memory I will cherish forever.
And frankly, although I did not realize it then, the day I found out about my acceptance to the University of Georgia is a memory I will always think of because without that, I am certain I would not be the person I am today.