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Mentorship Playing into Alum’s Success

February 24, 2020

Arleen Lamba ’19
Arleen Lamba ’19

Arleen Lamba ’19 graduated this past December as one of the top students in the biology department at Mount Saint Mary’s University. But her path wasn’t always certain.  

“On my first test in freshman biology, I really messed up,” she says. “I was in danger of failing. I thought about majoring in English instead, since writing is more in my comfort zone. But then I remembered I was a President’s Scholar Award recipient. I remembered that the Mount believed in me, and that’s when it clicked.”

Lamba taught herself how to study biology and ended up earning an A- in the class. “And the gears started turning down a premed track,” she says.

Since that moment, Lamba has been determined to put her full effort into everything she does.

First, she secured her place as a sophomore in the biology lab of Dr. Luiza Nogaj. That experience led to becoming a co-author on an article recently published in the Journal of Peptide Science. Her work also contributed to a provisional patent agreement. It’s experiences like these that make her grateful for her Mount education. 

“My freshman year, I thought a bigger university might have been a better fit for me,” she says. “But once I started working in the lab and on research projects, I realized that students at UCLA are having to beg professors to join their lab. When you are in a lab at a big institution, undergraduate students wash the dishes. Instead of washing dishes, I was growing cells in those dishes and performing tests on those cells. Through those tests, we were discovering which genes are upregulated and downregulated in the presence of certain proteins.”

Outside of the biology lab, one of her favorite experiences at the Mount was her involvement in WISH (Women in Science & Health), where she spent three semesters as the club’s president. 

“Our goal was to bring science students together to bond and encourage each other academically,” she says. “We had a special mentor program that pairs upperclassmen with freshman and sophomores. The idea was to give underclassmen a preview of what to expect their junior and senior year.”

Mentorship played a large role in Lamba’s personal success at Mount Saint Mary’s. “After my struggle during freshman year, I pushed myself to talk to upperclassmen that were on a premed journey. I was determined to learn everything I could to prepare for what was coming next.”

What came next was the MCAT. In August 2019, Lamba took the MCAT and achieved above her target score.

Lamba graduated in December 2019 with a bachelor’s in biology and honors in the Global Women in STEM and Policy Undergraduate Research program.

The opportunities for Lamba have continued as she was hired as a First Year Biology Lab instructor at the Mount. She finds herself mentoring her young students, paving the way for their success as others have done for her. “Last week, I was introducing new vocabulary words in my discussion session. I told them, ‘You don’t need to know this now, but you are going to see this in two years when you take biochemistry.’ I like sprinkling in things they will see later. I hope that one day they will find my tricks helpful and remember what I said.” 

Lamba is grateful she received the President’s Scholar Award all four years. “I honestly couldn’t have attended the Mount without it,” she says. “It afforded me this amazing education and kept me working hard. And now I’m excited for my next big step.” This summer, Lamba will apply to medical schools and she’ll be off on another adventure. 

Most of all, Lamba is proud to be a Mount grad. “The Mount provided an environment that said, ‘You can do anything you want.’ I was empowered to try new things and step into leadership positions. The supportive professors and peers that I had beside me made me successful. I truly could not have done any of this on my own.”