Megan Ayers

Having your professors know you, hold you accountable, and be really invested in your learning and future is invaluable, and I am grateful to have had that support at LC.

Megan Ayers BA '19



Degree and Class Year

BA ’19

Current City

New Haven, Connecticut


Physics and Mathematics


Physics Club, SQRC tutor

Overseas study

Paris, France

Continuing Studies

Current PhD candidate in the Department of Statistics & Data Science at Yale University

What three words would you use to describe L&C?

Supportive, Collaborative, Outdoorsy

What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?

During my first visit the campus immediately stood out to me—it is so beautiful and calming. The openness around academic exploration really appealed to me too—I was initially undecided about what I wanted to major in, but loved the idea that it would be possible for me to double major and also study abroad for a semester if I chose to. Another important factor was the generous merit scholarship opportunities that LC offers which helped make it a financially feasible option for my family and I.

What have you been doing since graduation?

After graduation I worked for a year in Portland as a data analyst. Since the fall of 2020 I have been a PhD student at Yale in the Statistics & Data Science department, and just advanced to candidacy in the spring.

How did Lewis & Clark prepare you for post-college life?

LC provided me with a really supportive environment and network of people that allowed me to explore my different interests and ideas and figure out what I wanted to do with them. Academically I think it’s a very encouraging and collaborative environment. That helped me to not just learn a ton of new skills and material, but also to build confidence in myself while working closely with faculty and getting individualized feedback and taking many classes with the same close group of peers in my majors. Looking back and also comparing LC to bigger schools, the amount of time that I got to spend one-on-one with professors was amazing. Having developed those close relationships with faculty helped me so much, from figuring out which classes I should take, which summer research internship opportunities I should apply for, which career paths made sense with my interests, and even which graduate program I should attend (even though I was no longer at LC when deciding)! Having your professors know you, hold you accountable, and be really invested in your learning and future is invaluable, and I am grateful to have had that support at LC.

What would you say is the most important thing you learned at Lewis & Clark?

That making some mistakes and being confused is part of learning, and that the more comfortable I am with that, the easier it is to be open minded and learn and discover new things. That attitude adjustment motivated me to keep working through challenging material and also to see coursework as an investment in my skills and abilities rather than just a set of hoops to jump through to get a grade, which has definitely also helped me push through some difficult times in my PhD so far.

Why did you major in physics and math?

I have always really enjoyed math and was fascinated about the ability to use it to express fundamental properties of the physical world. My freshman year I took the intro physics sequence for majors and was hooked from there. It was definitely challenging at (many) times, but I developed an amazing group of friends in the major who supported each other, which was also a big part in motivating me to decide on physics. Eventually, adding math as a double major seemed like a natural move because there were so many overlapping courses, and I became more interested in the other math major requirements beyond what was directly applicable to physics. The faculty in the math department are incredible and were another big factor in that decision—I enjoyed branching out into other realms of math because of their amazing teaching skills.

How do you stay connected to Lewis & Clark as an alum?

I’d say most of all through the friends and mentors that I met there. My freshman year roommate is still one of my very best friends, members of my cohort in math and physics still keep in touch and visit each other when we can, and there are a few faculty that I grew close with and reconnect with from time to time. And whenever I’m back in Portland I always try to visit campus and take a walk through Tryon.

What was your favorite class? How did it expand your knowledge?

It’s really hard to choose, but I think it has to be Yung-Pin Chen’s Probability and Statistics sequence which I took during my senior year. Statistics wasn’t really a field I’d thought about directly pursuing before. Concepts and approaches from statistics and probability pop up all over the place in math and physics courses, but taking that class gave me a new perspective about how the field is a synthesis of many topics that I’m really interested in. It also helped me see that it’s a field that is super interdisciplinary and has endless useful real-world applications. It really inspired me and helped shape my future career in statistics and data science. And a lot of that is thanks to Yung-Pin, who is an incredible professor and is so kind, patient, and insightful.

Who was your mentor on campus? Why do you consider this person your mentor?

Paul Allen was probably my closest mentor on campus. I spent a lot of time with Paul in a combination of classes, advising meetings, and eventually as a grader for his courses. I always felt like I could go to him whenever I needed guidance about things from classes to internships to decisions about graduate school, and his advice was always very thoughtful and helpful. I’m really grateful that he took the time to get to know me and help support me through some difficult decisions.

If you studied overseas while at Lewis & Clark, how did you choose your program? What did your overseas study add to your L&C experience?

I took French in high school and during my first two years at LC, am super into art history, and am always looking to maximize my bread and pastry intake. So Paris felt like an obvious choice and I am so so happy that I did it, it was one of the best times I’ve ever had. It was a chance for me to go full liberal arts mode for an entire semester and study some topics that I was really interested in but that were completely unrelated to my majors, like art history and film. We get that opportunity at LC as well, but having a whole semester dedicated to it in another country was a heightened experience for me. I was also able to improve my French a lot, since it was an immersion program and I stayed with a host family. In a lucky way it also helped me connect more with other LC students—some of my preexisting friends also studied abroad at the same time as me, and I met some amazing new LC friends while abroad that I might not have met otherwise.