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Steppin' Out: Laura Dinn, chemical engineer and Irish step dancer

"She has been not only one of the academically strongest students among my advisees, but perhaps the most fun person to interact with in my five years at Tufts," says academic advisor Hyunmin Yi, assistant professor of chemical engineering. "She landed and performed very well in a summer internship at Millipore, a well-established biotechnology firm, through a highly competitive two-year program established to recruit top-tier students. With her academic excellence, positive attitude, and high spirit, I'm sure she'll do well."

Laura Dinn E11 (center), co-president of the Tufts Irish Dance Club, warms up with the club before the "Rated M" Amalgamates winter concert at the Sophia Gordon Theater on Feb. 18, 2011. Photo: Kelvin Ma/Tufts University

Laura, E11, is co-president of the Irish Dance Club. She began step dancing in second grade and performed in national competitions with the O'Shea-Chaplin Academy of Irish Dance. "Irish step dancing has been a big high point for me," she says. "I started doing ballet and jazz and found Irish step dancing to be better exercise. It was exciting. There was more jumping around. At Tufts I was on the track team for three years, mostly as a triple-jumper. I think the Irish step dancing helped with that!"

"What drew me to Tufts was the combination of the liberal arts and engineering experience," she says. "I've got a lot of friends in liberal arts, not just engineers. I'm taking psychology classes and Italian." For her senior capstone project she is involved in a project with David Vinson, professor of the practice in chemical and biological engineering, to make an extended-release coating for a drug. "You take all these classes and this is a chance to put it together and do something with it," she says. "Learning to think like an engineer really helps you to problem-solve." After college she aspires to graduate study after working for a time in the pharmaceutical industry. Tufts laid the foundation, she says. "My advisor and professors at Tufts have been very helpful. They really take an interest."

Meantime, she dances. "At Tufts you can join anything you want if you have the time. When I started with the Irish Dance Club, I thought I'd do a few shows here and there. It turns out we have shows all the time. We perform with the Tufts Dance Collective, which is the largest club on campus and really brings the community together. Anyone who wants to be in a dance can be in a dance. The last show had 400 dancers in it! People are from all sorts of different backgrounds and if you're interested in an activity you can do it."

Laura Dinn, E11, and the Irish Dance Club - Images by Tufts University

[This story first appeared in Tufts Blueprint in Spring 2011]