The Beautiful Mind of Lauren Hoffman (’18)

Lauren Hoffman

Hardworking and up for a challenge, WWU alumna Lauren Hoffmann (’18) grew up wanting to become a professional musician, but a knack for science and math and a love of the healthcare field tugged her toward healthcare at an early age. Her mother was a lab director at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, and she enjoyed visiting the lab. For more exposure to the medical field, she joined the ski patrol in high school, and gathered as much EMT experience as she could. From that experience, she learned that she particularly enjoyed working with children.

Lauren visited Western while in high school and attended Dr. Mike Mana’s information session on the Behavioral Neuroscience Program (BNS). Lauren made her decision—she was coming to Western. Two years later, Western’s was the only college application she sent. “I knew it was a risk, but I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”

She majored in Behavioral Neuroscience and philosophy, and loved the intersection of those two disciplines. “A lot of people in BNS study philosophy.” She credits her ability to apply critical thinking, to write well, and to use a critical eye on her experience studying philosophy. She also got involved in the philosophy club at Western. 

Scholarships helped Lauren as she worked 20-credit quarters and summers. She earned the Northwest Medical Society scholarship and the Downing Montague scholarship. Lauren says, “My scholarships really helped me a lot. For the majority of the time I was in college, I had two other siblings who were also in college. Because of that, my parents couldn’t really pay for me to go to school but they made too much money for me to receive any funding from the government. They helped a decent amount, but for the most part paying for school was up to me.”

Lauren’s emphasis as an undergraduate was in BNS, working with Dr. Janet Finlay in her lab. She gained hands-on experience that wouldn’t be possible at most undergraduate schools. The graduate-level research she did in Finlay’s lab led her to travel to the Society for Neuroscience conference in Washington, D.C. with Dr. Finlay and a group of fellow students, where they presented their research. Lauren was also active in NERDS, the BNS club, and in her spare time, she worked as a public safety assistant for the WWU police department. 

After graduation, Lauren applied for laboratory tech positions in pediatric hospitals. She was accepted into the very competitive program at St. Jude in Memphis, Tennessee, a world renowned medical facility for children. “It’s such a cool place. The labs, doctors, and patients are all within the same facility..”

Just a year out of Western, Lauren is working on life-saving drugs that could treat some of the most vexing pediatric cancers. She has seen success in her trials. “I meet the children who are carrying the very cancer I have in a petri dish back in the lab.” That kind of hands-on multidimensional approach is very motivating to Lauren, and to her boss—a supportive and beloved mentor—who is giving Lauren as much work as she can handle. Which, as Western knows, is a lot. “I could not have landed a more perfect position—my boss is so supportive of what I want to do, and is a great mentor to me.”

Lauren traveled back to campus to speak to Dr. Spencer Anthony-Cahill’s class “It was so exciting to tell students that in just a year after graduating, I’m working on breakthroughs in cancer treatment.”