Laurel Miner

Class of 2005

Current Position: Program Analyst, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Major: Physics
Other Degrees: MS and PhD in Physics, University of North Carolina
Current Location: Washington, DC

I believe that the value of a liberal arts education does not lie with the subject matter itself, but with the skills it nourishes. If my undergraduate education had been narrowly focused on physics, I would not have developed the communication and critical thinking skills necessary in my current position at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Even in graduate school, the time spent writing research papers for philosophy, international relations, and history courses in undergrad helped me synthesize subject introductions for technical papers.

While pursuing my PhD in Physics at UNC, I regularly used reading, writing, and research skills developed in history, international relations, and philosophy classes to gather information and to communicate my findings to others. My broad educational background also made me a better teacher, as I was able to frame highly technical ideas in a variety of perspectives for my students. The breadth of subjects that I studied at William & Mary has eased my transition from basic scientific research to science policy in the federal government. My current position at the National Institute of Standards and Technology requires me to constantly interact with people with a diverse set of backgrounds, knowledge and ideas.

No matter how many lab reports or problem sets you complete, you will be hard pressed to know how to integrate a diverse set of perspectives and information without a liberal arts curriculum and its associated papers and projects. That skill is invaluable both at work and in your everyday life. The ability to communicate with people with a broad range of backgrounds makes it possible for me to collaborate effectively on the projects necessary for my job.