Engineering a Path of Purpose: Lauren Kadlec’s ’24 Journey of Discovery and Determination

Lauren Kadlec '24 standing on a ladder and smiling while wearing protective gear as she interacts with engineering equipment.

From Maple Grove, Minnesota, Lauren Kadlec ’24 has a Valpo story marked by challenges, triumphs, and unwavering determination. Full of passion burning brightly within her and radiating outward, Lauren’s enthusiasm for her field is palpable. “I love engineering. It’s what I’m passionate about,” she shares, her eyes alight with fervor. “I was in robotics for four years in high school. And I fell in love with engineering and the problem-solving involved. There’s this high when you’re trying to solve a problem, and it’s so frustrating, but then you get that ‘aha moment.’ It’s the best thing ever, and it’s so hard to describe. So I knew I wanted to do engineering, but I didn’t want to work on something I felt wasn’t doing anything for the world. And then my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer and was operated on by the Da Vinci surgical robot. That was another aha moment for me — a very tangible, very personal experience of seeing engineering making a difference. My dad is now cancer-free and that was done with robotics!” she exclaims. 

Despite the daunting nature of her chosen bioengineering major, Lauren’s unwavering dedication made every hurdle seem surmountable. “It’s one of those majors that most people would find really difficult, but I find myself drawn to it,” she explained, “it’s what I want to spend my life doing.”

Finding joy in her academic pursuits, Lauren’s journey has been one of exploration and growth. From her work with Professor Bethany Luke, Ph.D., on research of computational modeling for biological scaffolding to her role as a Hesse tutor, she immersed herself in the world of engineering with a relentless thirst for knowledge. Her eyes sparkle as she delves into the intricacies of her research, describing with passion the quest to create artificial tendons that would revolutionize medical care: “We talk the most about the ACL, because, quite frankly, that’s the ligament that gets torn the most. And because tendons and ligaments are made of parallel fibers, they can hold a lot of stress, but it can’t hold stress in all directions, just one. And if you tear it, it has trouble growing back the same way. So the theory is that if you implant a fake scaffold where everything is perfectly aligned, then the cells can move throughout it and heal better!”

Lauren Kadlec '24 posing on the floor of the campus building beside two of the Valpo Robotics robots and an award plaque from the Vex Robotics Competition.

Although remarkable in their own regard, Lauren’s journey wasn’t just about academic achievements; it was about community and connection, too. As co-president of Valpo Robotics, she thrived in the collaborative spirit of her peers, serving and leading with enthusiasm and dedication. Whether it was organizing tournaments or engaging in outreach efforts, Lauren’s commitment to her community shone through in every endeavor. And, most recently, her commitment was given regional recognition as she shared about the Robotic Football tournament at Valpo this April on Fox32 Chicago.

As she reflected on her time at Valpo, Lauren’s words carry a sense of nostalgia and anticipation. “Valpo has been my home for four years,” she says, “I’ll miss everybody here, but I’m excited for what’s next.” Graduation will mark not just the end of an era, but the beginning of a new chapter — a chapter filled with possibilities and opportunities waiting to be seized.

And seize them, she will. With her sights set on Vanderbilt University for graduate school, Lauren’s journey is far from over. Her dreams of becoming an engineering professor and making a meaningful impact in the field of surgical robotics keep that passion within her burning brightly, propelling her forward with unwavering determination.

Headshot of Lauren Kadlec '24, smiling at the camera in professional attire.

But amidst the excitement of what lay ahead, Lauren remains grounded in the present moment. Considering the momentous occasion of Commencement fast approaching, she could not help but think of the many Beacons, both graduating and incoming, that she wanted to champion. Recalling past Commencements, she remarked, “I think there are incredible people that do the speeches, but I didn’t relate to a lot of them. I am a nerd, not in fraternity sorority life, and introverted, and I wanted there to be a representation of that ‘other’ vibrant side of Valpo that oftentimes doesn’t have it. Usually, the people on that side of the aisle don’t have the confidence to go for it, to stand in front of a crowd that big, or believe they have something important to say. So, if I was upset about that, I figured I may as well try myself,” she says.

Just like a lot of the things Lauren has set her mind and heart to until now, she succeeded in being selected as the College of Engineering’s Commencement student speaker. As she prepares to deliver her Commencement speech this Saturday, her words carry a message of resilience and hope — a message born from the collective journey of her fellow Beacons.

“I want my fellow Beacons to accept the loss the COVID-19 pandemic was and feel proud for overcoming it and for growing together through it. Our journey may have been marked by challenges, but it’s also been defined by resilience, determination, and a relentless pursuit of excellence,” she shared, her voice filled with conviction.

As Lauren prepares to stand before her peers, her words are sure to resonate with all, not just fellow engineering students — a testament to the indomitable spirit of the entire Class of 2024. In Lauren, Beacons graduating and incoming will not just find a speaker, but a beacon of light — a reminder that no matter the challenges they may face, they possess the strength, resilience, and passion to overcome them all. 

Lauren Kadlec '24 interacting with robotics equipment.