Five Questions with Lauren Ejiaga, winner of the DoD STEM Award
Lauren Ejiaga is an eighth grader from New Orleans, Louisiana, and the recipient of the 2019 Broadcom MASTERS $10,000 STEM Talent Award, sponsored by DoD STEM. Lauren focused her research on current levels of ultraviolet light from the sun and how it affects plant growth. Read more about Lauren and her project here.
Who, if anyone is your fictional STEM idol?
As a child, I was fascinated with horror stories. My number one book will always be Mrs. Gaddy and the Ghost by Wilson Gage. It’s been forever locked in my memory from when I started learning to read. I admired the main character, farmer Mrs. Gaddy, who attempts to get rid of the ghost in her kitchen. She tries a broom, bug spray, fire (in the oven), confinement (in the butter churn) and a mousetrap; but the ghost evades them all. Eventually, they meet in the middle and learn to live in harmony, but the point is, I was inspired by the perseverance Mrs. Gaddy displayed to solve the problem facing her. As a woman in STEM, more specifically as an African-American woman in STEM, encountering challenges is inevitable; so I appreciate the skills of dear old Mrs. Gaddy.
So far, which moment in your life made you feel the most accomplished?
This moment right now. As cliché as it sounds, living in the moment is the only way to live. I would even expand the answer to my scientific journey this year. From being recognized at my middle school fair to placing in regionals, then state fair—every step of the way was memorable.
Being chosen as a Broadcom MASTERS finalist is something I’ll never forget. It’s astonishing to see the progress from the first hours of research to many months later. The honor of winning the STEM Talent Award was the happily ever after to a great chapter. I never thought that I’d get this far with my science project. I am forever thankful for the opportunities and experiences I’ve had this year, and will carry what I’ve learned for years to come.
What would you tell your 5-year-old self if you could talk to them today?
Take your naps, Lauren! When you get older, you’ll find yourself overcome with so many assignments, deadlines and stressors that you’ll have to sacrifice something: your sleep. Take advantage of your napping privileges, please. This means closing your eyes on that mat no matter what. Also, think of happy things: your favorite part of the day, your anticipated part of the day, candy, whatever. You will regret not doing those things later, you energetic child.
What is the strangest scientific fact you’ve come across over the course of your research experience?
Going into this project, I had a general sense of what I’d find, but I had questions like, “Is the ozone hole really a hole?” The answer is no. It is not an actual hole as many believe, but instead it refers to a loss of 60% of the ozone that is usually present from September to November each year.
Also, exactly what is ozone? With how important it is, there must be lots of it?
No again. Ozone is a simple molecule consisting of three oxygen atoms located within the stratosphere. It is also called trioxygen and has a strong odor and pale blue color while normal oxygen is odorless and colorless. Surprisingly, there are just three ozone molecules in every 10 million air molecules while there are 2 million normal oxygen molecules. Nonetheless, despite its number in the earth’s atmosphere, it is extremely vital for life on earth.
What risk do you think is always worth taking?
Going the extra mile. I have always been a curious child, and would look for any way to find something out. I apply this trait to my schoolwork, as it enhances my creativity, aiming for that target no one cared to reach. The biggest risk is not taking one, so don’t be afraid to go further than the norm to understand something. Ask questions, watch that video at 4 a.m. (even though you shouldn’t because it’s a school day) and be imaginative. You’ll never know until you know.