Balancing Biology and a Busy Family

Balancing Biology and a Busy Family

Mom and scientist Abigail Goen named 2018 commencement student speaker

by Kim Wall

Friday, April 13, 2018

When Abigail Goen approaches the podium as UNH Manchester’s 2018 Commencement student speaker, she’ll be looking into the eyes of her biggest fans, her three children, Hannah, Jack and Matthew, and her husband. For the past five years, her journey has been theirs as well. 

“When Mom goes to school, everyone goes to school,” says Goen who’s three kids range in age from 8-13. “When we get home, it’s homework time and we all sit together to study. They make their flash cards, I make mine and we quiz each other.” After the kids go to bed, she stays up until midnight finishing her school work. 

Goen started taking classes at UNH Manchester in 2002 after graduating from Conval High School. She struggled with the coursework and decided it wasn’t the right time and withdrew from school. Ten years later she gave it another try, this time married with three kids. 

“I originally picked UNH because it has a great reputation,” says Goen. “Geographically, the Manchester campus made it possible for me to go back to school.” 

Now, five years later, the campus has become her second home. “I came here with no idea how to be successful in college,” admits Goen. “Once you walk through the doors, there is a whole army of people waiting to support you, pick out your potential and cultivate it. They were invested in my success on every level.”

She started in an associate degree program and fell in love with the biology courses she’d been taking. She applied and was accepted to the biological sciences bachelor’s degree program with minors in chemistry and biomedical engineering.

“I love the world class of education that is paired with very down to earth, accessible people, says Goen. “The professors are so well educated and committed to the success of their students. They are just quality human beings.” 

She works on campus in the Center for Academic Enrichment where she has been a science writing tutor for three years. She also works in the science lab doing research with Professor Kyle MacLea. 

“I like the rigorous dedication to research,” says Goen. “I like that it’s methodical. There is a question and you actively seek the answer, that really appeals to me.”

Her first lab research position was working on the propagation of prions in yeast. She’s now doing independent research on microbial genomics. “I’ve taken three different species of bacteria, isolated and sequenced the DNA then analyzed the genome,” explains Goen. 

In addition to parenting, classes, labs, research and tutoring, Goen also makes time to contribute to the local community. 

As co-president of the TriBeta honor society for biological study, Goen coordinated an outreach project at Families in Transition in Manchester. Goen, along with four UNH Manchester classmates, ran a STEM project day for students ages 8-13 during February vacation.  

Students explored the sciences hands-on through stations focusing on nutrition, botany, microscopy and chemistry. Goen also connected the organization with UNH’s STEM Discovery Lab to work together to establish scholarships for the students to attend STEM Lab camps this summer. 

“Even though we’re all really busy, I think it’s important to stress community involvement,” says Goen. “I’m a believer in ripple effects. You can do something you think is small, but how it influences somebody else’s life is immeasurable.”  

She has personally felt the ripple effect when she chose to return to school. The positive influence on her children has been very gratifying.

“Going back to school has shown my kids, especially my daughter, that a woman can go to work or school, manage a household and dream about being a scientist,” says Goen. “It’s never too late to pursue your dreams.”

As she prepares her commencement speech, at the forefront of her mind is how impactful it will be for her kids to see their Mom be recognized for her hard work and dedication. 

“I want my kids to know that, no matter which road you take or how long it takes, you can be successful.”

Goen graduates in May 2018 and will return to UNH Manchester in the fall to teach microbiology labs. She also plans to apply to graduate school and hopes to one day earn a Ph.D and return to the college classroom to teach.  

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