Fashion Model Lindsey Payne Proves Science Is Not Just For "Nerds"
Stillman biology major Lindsey Payne is inadvertently helping President Obama.
Lindsey enjoys concocting viruses in petri dishes; determining the product of chemical equations; and ascertaining the length of, and exact nucleotides in, DNA samples. She is an award-winning Lewis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Scholar, and a Howard Hughes Scholar.
But Lindsey is also a model. And, ironically, every time she twirls effortlessly down the runway during one of Stillman’s Sophistication Unlimited fashion shows, she helps President Obama, who wants to improve participation and performance of American students in science, mathematics and related fields. You see, studies indicate that students in this country perform poorly in science and math because they and their parents assume that only “nerds” do well in these subjects. Nerds are often defined as obsessive, overly intellectual and socially inept.
In countries that excel in science and mathematics, academic success is more likely to be associated with good study habits than with a person’s nerd quotient. Thus, it is no surprise that American students lag far behind other developed nations in these disciplines. Fortunately, well-rounded individuals such as Lindsey aid the President’s campaign by proving that “normal” students can excel in difficult subjects.
“I know that the major I’m in and the career path I want to take require dedication and focus,” says Lindsey, who has a 3.7 grade point average. “Biology majors have to study long hours in order to be successful. It’s not that hard, but there is a lot of material to cover and you have to begin by really learning the basics because you will continue to build on that foundation.”
In addition to having a passion for science and a great runway strut, Lindsey, who is a junior, has something even more valuable. Common sense. During winter break, while college students throughout the nation were tweating, instagramming, and watching television, she revised and edited her personal statement and filled out applications for summer internships. Procrastination obviously is not the modus operandi of this perennial early bird, who could easily serve as a poster child for the President’s ongoing campaign to make American students more competitive in an increasingly global society.
Last summer, Lindsey worked closely with Dr. Rosianna Gray, Chair of the Department of Natural Sciences, on a two-month study that yielded significant findings about the enzyme histidine ammonia-lyase (HAL).
“I was so excited about our research that I would call my mom on my way home from the lab, and tell her about my day even though she probably didn’t understand what I was talking about,” recalls Lindsey, who presented her findings at an LSAMP competition, where she won second place out of approximately fifty students from colleges throughout the region.
Lindsey is making strides in the lab and on the runway. And every step she takes helps chip away at the iconic stereotype of the nerdy scientist, which distracts far too many students from a discipline that is critical to the advancement of our nation.
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