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Featured student: Emily Ehlerding ’14

If you’re ever looking for Manchester senior Emily Ehlerding, check the Science Center. She and her fellow science majors “practically live there” and she’s fine with that. At Manchester, science majors and their faculty are a close-knit community where Emily finds challenge, encouragement and friendship. “Everyone,” she says, “wants you to succeed.”

A Decatur, Ind., native, Emily chose Manchester over other schools “because people were a lot friendlier here and the campus felt homey.” She’s a double major in physics and chemistry with a minor in mathematics, and is headed to graduate school next year to earn a Ph.D. in medical physics. Eventually, she plans to be a physics professor at a small college or university.

Emily has terrific role models for that. “My professors are the best thing about Manchester,” she says. They’re patient about explaining things even when she asks “a million questions.” If she e-mails them a homework question late at night, they’ll reply. They’re good with the “life chats” too — helping Emily figure out “what I want to do with my life.”

She’s had great learning experiences off Manchester’s campus too. She spent one summer with a Purdue biophysics group researching proteins involved in photosynthesis. This past summer she was one of 24 students from across the country conducting research at the University of Chicago on a new type of imaging to detect tumors. “It was a lot of fun,” Emily says of the city experience, propelling U of C to the top of her graduate school list which also includes UCLA, Vanderbilt and Duke.

At Chicago, she was the only student researcher from the Midwest and, she believes, the one from the smallest school. The other students teased her about the “Indiana lifestyle” until she invited them home for a weekend. About 15 of Emily’s fellow researchers joined her at the Indiana State Fair, tent-camped on her grandmother’s farm, learned how to pick sweet corn, and roasted marshmallows around a bonfire. Away from the city lights, the young physicists even enjoyed a meteor shower. Now, Emily says, her new friends want to live in Indiana, too.

Back at Manchester, Emily doesn’t see anything extraordinary about studying six to eight hours a day (though she takes off Friday night and Saturday). She’s also president of the Society of Physics Students, archivist for the University chapter of the American Chemical Society, and a member of Students Pondering About Math (SPAM). If that weren’t enough, she works about 15 hours a week at various jobs — as a student assistant, a lab assistant, and a physics tutor in the Success Center.

When Emily needs “me time,” she slips on her sneakers and goes running. It’s relaxing and helps her think. But one thing she doesn’t want to think about is leaving Manchester in May. “I’m going to miss it so much.”

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