Double the Sun Devil pride: Twins graduate ASU with Bachelor of Science degrees
Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.
The Eltze family has reason to be doubly proud because twins Lara and Maren Eltze are graduating this spring from Arizona State University with honors from Barrett, The Honors College.
Lara will receive Bachelor of Science degrees in biological sciences and psychology with a minor in Spanish. Maren will receive a Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering with a minor in German.
The pair was born in Duisburg, Germany, and now consider Oro Valley, Arizona – where their parents live and where they went to high school — as their home base.
The sisters received scholarships to attend ASU: the Provost Scholarship for Lara and the President’s Scholarship for Maren.
Both were active on campus, working in research and serving their fellow students in different ways.
Lara was involved with Psi Chi, the International Honors Society in Psychology. She began her association with the organization as a member, then served as director of finance for the 2019–20 academic year and president in 2020–21.
“This year was especially unique as we were fully virtual, which elucidated its own trials and tribulations. Despite that, we still recently held a very successful virtual Arizona Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference, and have engaged our members throughout the semester. We also partook in several community outreach and volunteerism events over the semester, and it feels great to be involved in the community — even remotely — when so much of the pandemic can feel isolating,” Lara said.
Lara worked for several years as a research assistant for the Arizona Twin Project, a longitudinal study that has been evaluating several hundred twins in Arizona from age 1 to 12 or 13.
She was on the coding team, which coded subjective parent interactions into data used in statistical analyses, worked as an intern for several summers and became a project lead for the on-call team.
“Overall, working with the Arizona Twin Project has been absolutely invaluable in helping me to understand the scientific process of research, and in understanding the twin method and development through childhood. I would highly recommend the Arizona Twin Project to anyone who is motivated and interested,” Lara said.
Maren worked with Benjamin Bartelle, an assistant professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, on a project aimed at creating new technologies to image the human brain and drawing molecular information from whole-brain images.
She also was an undergraduate teaching assistant.
“One of my greatest accomplishments in my ASU career was being a UGTA! This was such a rewarding experience, and while I thought I was helping other students learn, I was learning so much myself,” Maren said.
Lara and Maren completed honors theses – required to graduate with honors from Barrett, The Honors College.
Lara’s thesis, titled "Do Physiological Stress and Internalizing Combine to Predict Child Chronic Pain One Year Later?," investigated prospective risk factors for acquiring chronic pain during childhood.
Maren completed a major capstone project, which centered on developing a treatment method for basal cell carcinoma using an existing drug combined with an in-situ polymer drug delivery system. Her Barrett thesis project looked at how characteristics of this delivery system could be optimized for potential clinical use.
We asked Lara and Maren to reflect on their undergraduate experiences at ASU and their plans for the future. Here’s what they had to say:
Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Lara: My "aha" moment occurred while shadowing a physician in the Emergency Department. I remember that on that day there were a lot of patients coming in who were experiencing a mental health crisis, and I was astounded at how well she was able to work with them, and how they responded to her. At the end of the day I asked how she did it; how she was able to create such a positive impact on someone who is going through a very rough part of their life, and she said it was her degree in psychology. That interaction really solidified my choice to pursue psychology during my undergraduate education.
Maren: I was set on going to medical school until sophomore year when I began research in a lab at ASU. The saying that to enjoy research means to enjoy the journey rather than the outcome was frequently told to me while I was considering biomedical engineering. During my time in the lab I realized that I very much enjoyed that journey. This was the moment that I realized that I wanted to stay in biomedical engineering research, which is the path I am currently pursuing!
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
Lara: I was surprised as to how accessible resources at ASU are to students. I had this expectation that entering a research lab would be a very exclusive and challenging process, but this is frankly not the case. Students who are interested in research are able to be involved, which is wonderful and (that) has allowed me to be involved in several research projects at the same time. I found that participating in research is not delineated based on academic achievement alone, but rather by one's interest in the field.
Maren: Something I learned at ASU that surprised me was that leadership opportunities are available to anyone! It is up to you to apply yourself and seek them out.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
Lara: I wanted to stay in-state, but it was the well-established Honors College that made it stand apart from the other Arizona schools. I also really appreciated all of the research opportunities that ASU offers, and wanted to attend a large school with those kinds of resources at my fingertips.
Maren: I chose ASU for its size, location and engineering program!
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? What was that lesson?
Lara: I have been so fortunate to have learned from so many amazing professors, and to have so many role models whom I can turn to. Dr. Eva Szeli, principle lecturer in the Department of Psychology, and Dr. Mary Davis, professor and associate chair in the Department of Psychology, have both made such a large impact on my education. Perhaps one of the most important lessons that I have learned was from Dr. Davis, who instilled in me the confidence to value my academic pursuits. The confidence she instilled has stuck with me for a while, and I am so grateful to her.
Maren: I am very fortunate to have had amazing mentors throughout my journey at ASU, all with fantastic advice that helped me get to where I am now, but one of the biggest lessons that my current research mentor, Dr. Bartelle, taught me, was that you do not need to be an expert in an area that interests you to pursue it – you need to have the interest to learn.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
Lara: I have so many pieces of advice! For those of you who are pre-med: Find friends who encourage you throughout your education and try to distance yourself from the deeply ingrained comparative culture that exists within many pre-med groups and classes. Focus on the aspects of yourself that you bring to the table, rather than what other people have – you are enough. And for anyone: Form a meaningful connection with at least one professor and find an adviser with whom you really connect. Both of these resources will be invaluable to you.
Maren: My biggest pieces of advice to those currently in school are to build yourself a support system and do not compare yourself to others! Set yourself up for success by utilizing the resources available to you, like exam review sessions and office hours, but take the time to enjoy the journey before you are done.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
Lara: Noble Library! I loved to sit in the arm chairs on the bottom floor in the mornings and get to work while the light trickled in from the glass ceiling. It made me feel so at peace with myself and where I am in my life.
Maren: My favorite spots on campus are the study spaces on the second floor of Noble Library. It was the perfect amount of quiet to be productive, yet busy enough to feel as though you are part of the community.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
Lara: I have accepted an offer to attend a medical school in the Southwest.
Maren: My plan after graduation is to pursue a PhD in biomedical engineering.