Photo courtesy of Monica Dooley
By Neal Reid, Auburn University Communications Editor
Many people may view serving their community as a noble cause to work into their lives when possible and convenient. For Laura Minton, it has become a way of life.
The spring 2020 Auburn graduate is well on her way to dedicating her career and life to making the world a better place for others, and she’s ready to take the next step of that journey this fall when she begins medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Gadsden City High School graduate will begin that chapter of her life on the heels of an immensely impressive four years on The Plains.
Not only did Minton graduate summa cum laude with a 4.0 grade point average in biomedical sciences, she earned a University Honors College Scholar distinction, was a Dean’s Medalist recipient and was feted with a Student Leadership Award by Auburn University President Jay Gogue. Minton was a four-year Honors College member who was selected as an Auburn Alumni Association’s Be The Creed Honoree, was a four-year member of the College of Sciences and Mathematics’ outstanding students list and a national member of the Alpha Epsilon Delta U.S. health pre-professional honor society.
It was an Auburn career Minton remembers fondly.
“I’ve definitely grown a lot, met so many different people and opened the horizons of my mind,” she said. “But I also worked hard, so I have this feeling of, ‘I earned that.’ Auburn is hard, so it’s a happy feeling but also a sense of accomplishment.”
Minton was awarded the Marks Family/GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Scholarship for biochemistry research, as well as an Auburn Presidential academic scholarship. She also worked as a resident assistant for three years and two summers, earning the New RA of the Year award for the Upper Quad along the way.
Minton gained a great deal of interpersonal skills and learned crisis management while working as an RA, experience that will serve her well as a physician.
“One of the things I learned was definitely crisis response, having to stay calm, but also be firm and communicate,” said Minton, who met her boyfriend, mechanical engineering major Maximilian Garton, while working as an RA. “There are just so many things that happened that you wouldn’t expect. Being flexible and adaptable, but also thinking of other people and how you can help them in their journey was important.
“There were so many times I got a call at 2 a.m., even on nights before exams, and that’s just part of it. I was able to help the residents out, and hopefully they learned from the experience.”
A service-oriented personality drove Minton to volunteer at the Oak Park Nursing Home, the East Alabama Food Bank, American Red Cross, Stop Hunger Now, Vacation Bible School and with Project Horseshoe Farm’s tutoring program. That experience outside the classroom, coupled with a full complement of challenging courses, gave Minton a well-rounded Auburn experience that will propel her into the future.
“I learned and grew a lot as time went on,” she said. “From the beginning, I knew I wanted to pursue medicine, so I knew I really wanted to focus on my studies. That was my No. 1 priority, but as the classes got harder and harder, I realized I had to have balance and outlets to where I could take care of myself.
“I knew how important it was to emphasize my mental wellness, physical wellness, spirituality, connecting with people and giving back. I found that, especially for me, service and giving back was really important and made me feel fulfilled.”
Minton immersed herself in every aspect of Auburn during her time as a student, and being part of the Auburn Family is something Minton holds dear.
“The Auburn Family is very real,” she said. “I’ve seen people in other states and have traveled to other places, and you hear, ‘War Eagle.’ For me, I especially felt a sense of the Auburn Family because I literally lived on campus the entire four years, including the summers.
“So, I lived, ate, breathed, studied and everything all at Auburn. To have such a huge chapter of my life at Auburn with Auburn people, I’m always going to feel a part of the Auburn Family. It’s very special.”
Minton developed a passion for helping others from an early age and in large part from watching her father Maury, a former U.S. Marine, change careers and become a physician when she was 8. Her innate thirst for knowledge grew, and Minton learned how to study and gained a love for learning alongside her father as he attended medical school at UAB.
“We were always studying and reading together,” she said of her father, who is currently a practicing physician. “So, I really thought it was normal to love learning and spend time with other people while reading and learning all the time. That really helped me, and it’s also been an intrinsic interest of mine.”
Minton received considerable support from her mother Amy, who has a master’s degree in nutrition, as well as her younger brother David, a computer science major and baseball player at Birmingham-Southern College. Minton grew up developing fond memories of Auburn thanks to her grandfather Paul, who studied forestry on The Plains in the 1960s. So, when she graduated from Gadsden City in 2016, she knew Auburn was the place to be.
Minton’s academic acumen and attention to detail served her well her last two years at Auburn, especially in the lab setting. As one of Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Doug Goodwin’s star pupils, Minton’s talent and work ethic made themselves apparent from the start.
“Something that was very impressive about Laura as a student coming in the lab is that she was very much a self-starter,” said Goodwin, who chairs the AU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “She’s very good at taking initiative with things. Instead of waiting around for things to happen, she was always asking, ‘What can I be doing?’ That’s one of the things that helped her progress the way she did.”
Minton’s lab research focused on tuberculosis, more specifically how enzymes influence the effectiveness of antibiotics to fight the disease. Her research was so impressive that Goodwin enlisted her services to help co-author a textbook chapter in the American Chemical Society’s Symposium Series along with grad student Jessica Krewall.
Biomedical Sciences majors are tasked with presenting their research findings to the science community, an aspect of their education Goodwin says is crucial, and Minton did not disappoint. She presented posters outlining her research work, both internally at two COSAM research fairs and symposiums, as well as at the Southeastern Undergraduate Research Conference in January in Tuscaloosa, winning awards for all three categories.
Minton was bound and determined to show that scientists can write and communicate at a high level, and her awards are evidence of exactly that.
“One of my biggest pet peeves is when people try to separate everyone by saying they’re either a science/math person or an English/arts person,” said Minton, who also conducted genomic research at Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine under the instruction of Dr. Ya-Xiong Tao. “That’s not true at all, and I hope I knocked that stereotype out. I used the posters and the science to tell a story in a way that was interesting, especially in the biochemical aspects.”
Goodwin noted that Minton’s communications skills are a big part of why he feels she will be successful in her chosen profession.
“I think Laura’s going to become a fantastic physician, and there’s a number of reasons for that,” said Goodwin, an Auburn professor since 1999. “She did excellent work, and everything she did was with excellence. She always did her best to put out the best product she could, and that’s certainly part of it.
“The other aspect of it is personality and being able to interact with others, being engaging, putting others at ease around you. Laura has a great combination of a really sharp intellect, a willingness to do things at the highest level she’s capable of and also the interpersonal skills to interact with people in a way that, as a physician, is really important.”
Minton got a taste of that interaction last July when she went on a two-week mission trip to Brazil sponsored by Auburn First Baptist Church.
“I was able to shadow health care professionals giving vaccinations and assisted in administering testing for Hepatitis B and C, Syphilis and HIV,” she said. “I was able to go to a school and teach English, hang out with students and hear about their lives. I also volunteered at an outdoor eyeglass clinic, and that was really special because you could tell some of the patients really never thought they’d be able to see again. Getting to see the looks on some people’s faces was really special.”
Minton said her top three choices for her medical concentration are radiology, neurology and pediatrics, and she may end up combining those interests as a doctor. As she stands on the precipice of a new challenge with seemingly unbounded potential, Minton is hopeful and motivated.
“I’m nervous, but I’m also so excited,” she said of med school. “I’ve been working toward this goal of medical school my entire life, so I couldn’t be happier.”
If she can be a service to others and impact lives, Minton will be content.
“I can use the lessons I’ve learned or my experiences to be of better service to people now and in the future,” she said. “I think I’ve had a wide range of experiences and really poured my heart into each one of them. I hope that it all comes out through service my entire life.”