Lauren: NBA Washington Wizards cheerleader with a head for numbers.

Pleased to introduce you to Lauren, a cheerleader for the NBA’s Washington Wizards who holds degrees in math and economics. Editor’s Note: [Lauren moved from the NBA Wizards to the NFL Redskins!]

Lauren and three other current Wizards cheerleaders pursuing science, technology, engineering and math careers will join dozens of Science Cheeerleaders for performances and other activities at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC, April 27-29! You can join the Science Cheerleaders for the Big Cheer for Science wherever you are on Friday, 4/27 at 1:30 pm ET. Sign up to join the Big Cheer for Science.

In the interim, let’s learn more about Lauren:
SciCheer: What turned you on to math?
Lauren:
In high school, I had an amazing calculus teacher who opened my eyes to the applicability of mathematics and how I can extend those critical thinking skills into a variety of possible professional opportunities. Throughout my education, I had always had an interest in math mostly because it seemed to come easy to me—my mind was just built to analyze. Once I took this calculus class, I realized that I could study math at a high level, enjoy it, and study it at an undergraduate level. During my four years at Washington College, I found that one of the main applications of math which maximized my critical thinking was cryptanalysis and so that was the topic I chose to discuss for my senior thesis and the initial driving motivation for starting my career at a national defense firm.

SciCheer: Tell us more about your degrees.
Lauren:
I graduated in 2009 with two degrees from Washington College, one in Mathematics and one in Economics. I knew from the beginning I was going to be a Math major; however, after being exposed to the social science of economics, I once again extended my math basis into a ever changing science in economics.

SciCheer: Favorite courses you took to prepare for your degree?
Lauren:
Probability and the Theory of Numbers. Probability was a class where we were constantly using abstract thinking tactics to solve the problems. It seemed to me that every assignment was just a set of puzzles that I had to master. This also probably has something to do with why I enjoy Sudoku puzzles so much! Theory of Numbers was a different course which asked “Why?” a lot. When you are learning elementary mathematics, you just accept that 2+2=4, and don’t question why that is so.

Lauren Washington Wizards Science CheerleaderSciCheer: Why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?
Lauren:
I have spent the last two years cheering for the Washington Wizards. I grew up in Calvert County, a suburb of DC, so I have always been a fan of DC Sports despite residing in Baltimore now. I love dancing for the NBA because dancing is my passion, so on a court we get to use a lot of our technical dance skills. I started performing at the age of two and haven’t stopped since. Dancing for the Wizards has given me the opportunity to dance at a professional level for a team I’ve been watching since I was young. I am grateful every time I step out on the court to do what I do!

SciCheer: Which came first? Your interest in math or dance?
Lauren: I have been dancing since I was two! So clearly, the dancing came first. But, it wasn’t long after when I started my education that my parents started realizing I had a knack for math and science as well. There have been a variety of studies that show how math and the arts, especially music, stem from the same part of the brain. It’s no wonder I have been doing both for my entire life! I am extremely lucky that I still have the opportunity to do both every day.

SciCheer: Can you describe a typical day at work?
Lauren:
Most days, I wake up really early and go to the gym before work. Then at work I do a lot of data analysis and budget defining and tracking on our programs. Because I work in the Science and Technology Division, I track finance on our new front-end experimental programs on Space platforms!

SciCheer: Do you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders helped or hindered your studies or professional experiences?
Lauren:
I thoroughly believe that my cheerleading experiences have helped my studies and professional experiences. I learned the skill of time management while growing up, attempting to balance my education with dancing, and continue to utilize that skill every day. Also, as a professional cheerleader I have had the opportunity to take part in various promotions around the DC, MD, and VA area and meet new people constantly, greatly enhancing my interpersonal skills. This is an intangible positive to have in the professional world as well.

SciCheer: What do your fellow cheerleaders think about your interest in math?
Lauren:
It’s cool! Other teammates also have Science/Engineering backgrounds and we definitely embrace the fact that we are nerds!

SciCheer: What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Lauren:
I have always lived my life based on my favorite quote by Erma Bombeck: When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’

SciCheer: What are your plans for the future?
Lauren:
Someday, I would like to return to school and get my PhD and then start my own business.

SciCheer: Best cheerleading experience?
Lauren:
Performing at the Cherry Blossom Festival last year with Blake Lewis. It was such a great day meeting fans, taking photos, dancing, and just overall taking in a great experience.

SciCheer: Best math-related experience?
Lauren:
Receiving a special award for achieving top performance on a program. It was my first huge role and I worked insanely hard for about a year, but it paid off!

SciCheer: What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
Lauren:
I am only 24! I think people assume I’m older because I’m tall! I don’t know why…I’ve been 5’9” since I was 16!

SciCheer: If you could rewind the clock and change your degree, would you?
Lauren:
No! Never! I have never regretted a decision I have made in my life, especially not that one. It gave me opportunities to pursue a variety of different career options. GOOOO Math!

SciCheer: Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
Lauren:
Being able to do what I love full time career without having to sacrifice my passion for dancing is important. To share my experiences with others while they are starting to wrestle with the same issue I did as a pre-teen or teen is a resource I wish I had then. I took risks and they paid off and I hope that I am able to share that with others!