Member Highlight: Lauren Chen
Lauren Chen remembers an old statistic: When she was in the 7th grade, representing South Carolina at the National MathCounts Competition, only 27 out of the 224 competitors were girls.
Afterwards, she began to notice similar patterns. While studying number theory at the Research Science Institute during her junior year of high school, she was the only girl out of ten math mentees. These experiences motivated her to advocate for underrepresented groups in STEM throughout high school and become the campus director for the Percentage Project at Harvard.
This lack of representation did not sway Lauren’s staunch love of math and science. First introduced to the world of competition math in middle school, she quickly became enamored by numbers. Competition math involves techniques that differ from math taught in school, inviting infinite ways to explore problems. “There’s a lot of math that I still don’t know, which is the beauty of it,” she said.
Lauren forged her own path to follow her passions. Her high school emphasized sports more than academics, even though their math team was one of the best in the state, she said. “I did a lot of learning outside of school in order to attend math competitions and do science research and things like that.”
Some of those experiences include exploring pure math at the Ross Mathematics Program, participating in the Research Science Institute, and working in a biology lab at the University of South Carolina. She also launched a summer coding program for middle-school girls, teaching students to program games in Scratch.
Now a sophomore at Harvard, Lauren continues to study math and statistics. She just started working on a computer vision research project within the medical AI domain and is interested in attending graduate school. Outside of academics, she dabbles in broomball — a version of hockey with sneakers instead of skates — and pottery.
Looking back on her journey, Lauren has an important piece of advice for her younger self: “Focus on yourself and learn what you want to learn.”
This article is written by Tanushri Sundar for the Percentage Project.