ASCC Student Researcher Lara Chern Named UMaine 2023 Valedictorian

Orono, Maine – ASCC student researcher Lara Chern has been named the UMaine 2023 valedictorian. Originally from Bow, New Hampshire, Chern is graduating with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and minors in mathematics and engineering leadership and management. She has worked at the ASCC since 2020. 

Inspired by a high school teacher to apply to UMaine, Chern was ultimately persuaded to attend by the Honors Program. “There were so many research and career development resources at the University that it was hard not to come here!” she says. 

Chern started working at the ASCC during her sophomore year. Her position has been unusual for a student researcher; she has worked as a project manager in the project management office for a variety of programs, including ocean engineering, operations, and the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center. With the Natick Engineering Program, Chern supervised quality assurance and research for projects related to rapidly deployable shelters and additive materials. She has forecasted project budgets, prepared summaries for project roadmaps, and implemented new tools and systems for resource allocation and project management. 

“I have learned a lot of project management skills at the ASCC,” says Chern. “Managing budgets, project scope, and sponsor reporting have all been crucial skills to my career growth.” She says that her project management coursework has directly applied to her role at the Center. 

“Lara has been a huge help to the U.S. Army Natick DEVCOM Soldier Center program,” says Rolando Luna,  an engineer and project manager at the ASCC. “Her ability to consistently exceed expectations while wanting to take on additional responsibilities allowed me to trust her with higher levels of responsibility. Lara started off as a traditional undergraduate researcher, but her abilities and interest in project management allowed her to excel in her position as the undergraduate assistant project manager. We will miss Lara on the project, but know that she will continue to exceed all expectations, as she did at the ASCC, in her future endeavors.”

Chern has also conducted research at the ASCC. Her honors thesis, titled “An Automated Process to Produce Rebar Reinforced Concrete Parts Using Additive Manufacturing,” was advised by mechanical engineering professor and ASCC faculty member Dr. Richard Kimball.

“Lara is one of the most driven, mature and professional undergraduate students I have ever met,” says ASCC chief operating officer Peter Drown. “Her work ethic and productivity is exceptional, and her willingness to speak up has led to measurable improvements in our operations and the betterment of her co-workers. I wish Lara all the best, and she will always have a place at ASCC.”

On campus, Chern is president of the UMaine chapter of Engineers Without Borders, president of the Pi Tau Sigma Mechanical Engineering Honors Society, and vice president of UMaine Circle K International, a collegiate chapter of Kiwanis. She is organizing the St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser, which raises awareness for childhood cancer research. Some of her awards include the Servant Heart Award, an Ouellette Honors Thesis Fellowship, a Maine Space Grant Consortium Fellowship, and a Versant Power Scholarship. 

Chern has accepted a project manager position at Procter & Gamble in Iowa City, and has her sights set on a law certificate program and MBA in the future.

Contact: Katelin Moody,