Chem prof brings more than a Ph.D. to MCC

Augustana athlete returns after earning doctorate at Kansas State


Daniel Salazar, Calumet reporter

Lauren Chlebanowski competes on Kansas State University’s rugby team. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE COLLEGIAN AT KANSAS STATE.


Say howdy to Lauren Chlebanowski (pronounced Kleb-en-ow-ski) the new chemistry instructor at MCC. Chlebanowski grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and attended Augustana College for her undergraduate degree then Kansas State where she earned a doctorate in organic chemistry and moved back to the Quad Cities because her fiance was attending Palmer College of Chiropractic.

“I play rugby, that’s cool and I like to go to CrossFit. If you say CrossFit and rugby, those don’t sound approachable, but I swear I am,” she said. 

Chlebanowski has a brother five years younger who is working on his bachelor’s at Kansas State. Growing up she had a stay-at-home mother and a father who worked full time for the tollway system. When she got her first at-home chemistry kit in elementary, Chlebanowski knew that she wanted to be a scientist. 

“Most kids were asking for video games for Christmas and I asked for a microscope. It was always science,” she said. 

She did things other than science. Looking back she is grateful her parents were able to fund all the sports she was involved in. She did cheer for eight and a half years but was denied football by her mother. Fortunately, her guy friends played rugby and she decided she would give it a shot. While her mother initially said no, they came to a compromise where she would be able to play rugby only if she tried out for the softball team. 

“For a little while I was known as the cheerleader who played rugby, then the rugby player who had done cheerleading and now I’m the scientist that plays rugby. All of them tend to get the look of oh really you do that? Yes, yes I do,” she said.

Due to her uniqueness, she has a variety of unicorns in her office. Chlebanowski’s advisor told her that of all the students he ever had, she was the one with a touch of a unicorn.

Chlebanowski’s doctoral dissertation had to do with drug delivery systems. She likens prescription medication to a car bomb. She says, you are driving the car bomb to blow up a really bad building and you don’t want the car bomb to blow up in the middle of the street where the pedestrians are. You just want the building.

Delivery systems have the same concept. You’d want the drug delivered to the site of the infection or cancer so you can lower side effects. The end goal was to treat cancer and to treat multidrug-resistant bacterial infections. 

Chlebanowski’s high point so far  in her life was getting engaged. She and her partner have been together for three and a half years now. She tells the story of how they went ring shopping eight months before their engagement. During a spring photo shoot, her partner surprised her and asked Chlebanowski to marry. Chlebanowski said yes because early on they discussed how if they ever had a problem, they were going to discuss how to fix it. She said her partner consistently supported and pushed her to be the best she can be. 

Lauren Chlebanowski carries the ball for Kansas State rugby.

Chlebanowski came out at 19 and was scared for a while it would affect her career. Thankfully she believes that MCC is a cool, accepting place.

 “I’m not just gonna be quiet anymore, I am going to be the person who’s brave and who is that representation. That is part of the reason why I don’t mind if my students know because maybe I have a student in my class who isn’t out yet and they see me and they hopefully see me as a pretty decent instructor who can somewhat teach and is somewhat successful and I’m part of the community. It doesn’t affect anything in your life except for who you love,” she said.

She offered this advice for students. 

“ Do not give up during the semester. Always believe you are capable of doing the work and receiving a grade that is worth your time. Be better than I was and read your textbooks unlike I did. They have so much useful information.”