After being put on hold last year due to the pandemic, this year’s Lab Coat ceremony was held as a limited in-person event that was also live-streamed.
The ceremony recognizes junior and senior science majors by presenting them with a personalized lab coat. Ryan Huschka, associate professor of chemistry, was the emcee of the event, and he and other science faculty facilitated the occasion.
“On behalf of the faculty and staff at Newman University, thank you for choosing Newman to be the place that you chose to share your unique abilities and skills,” Huschka said. “The faculty and staff are ever mindful that we do not get to share our passion for biology and biochemistry and chemistry and mathematics and, yes, even physics, if we don’t have you, the student.”
In his speech, Huschka drew on the parable of the three servants and celebrated that the students had chosen to pursue their education at Newman, overcame challenges to find success, put forth the effort to improve and grow, and exhibited grit when faced with adversity. He also expressed hope that the ceremony would help motivate students to continue working hard and improving.
“Please know that the faculty in the Newman University science department believe you have the talent, work ethic and passion to go out and transform society,” Huschka said. “Continue to invest in yourself and to serve one another so that whenever that master returns, you will hear those glorious words: You are a good and faithful servant, come and share in my happiness.”
President Kathleen Jagger also spoke to students during the event.
“I think the idea for this ceremony is really quite special,” she said. “I don’t know of any other place that does this to honor their students surviving those two first, and tough, years of the science curriculum. But I think it’s also a bit of a warning to reach this point, because you are at a juncture where if you continue on this path, you may realize more and more as you study in every course and every year that goes by, how little we really know about science.”
Jagger encouraged students to maintain their curiosity, because that’s what moves science forward. She also asked them to think about how old they were when they decided they were interested in science. For Jagger, who holds a doctorate in microbiology, it was when she was hospitalized at the age of 10 for abdominal pains. During her five-day stay, Jagger was more interested in asking the doctors questions than anything else. She was diagnosed with epilepsy — which she later outgrew — but her interest in medicine was piqued by that experience and never went away.
Jagger ended her speech by telling students to “enjoy the ride,” be in the moment and continue asking questions.
“The process of becoming a scientist, you need to appreciate every moment in that process to fully understand why this is good for you, why it’s a good fit for you,” Jagger said. “Don’t be obsessed with just checking off that graduation requirement or major requirement or med school requirement; take that course and dig in in every way.” She ended by saying, “Keep that curiosity about science alive. There’s so much more we have to learn on this planet and beyond.”