Augusta University is celebrating excellence on Wednesday, Nov. 11 during the third annual Values Week.
One student who embodies excellence in the AU community is Henry Claussen, an Augusta native and PhD student in the biostatistics program.
Excellence is reflected in distinction, effectiveness, efficiency, enthusiasm, passion and quality.
He is known in his college for both his creative and passionate research in statistical modeling of genomics data and his dedicated work as a research assistant — but Henry Claussen has led an excellent life in other ways, too.
Claussen graduated from Augusta University with a mathematics degree in fall 2013, as a member of the first graduating class of Georgia Regents University (Augusta University’s legacy institution). But his undergraduate career was less than typical.
“My undergraduate journey took about 10 years,” Claussen said. “I dual-enrolled at what was then Augusta State University when I was still in high school, during my junior and senior years. So I started my undergraduate degree in 2002.”
But after graduating high school and briefly attending another institution, Claussen paused his education to work in the restaurant industry.
“I’ve worked in kitchens since I was 16 or 17, and it’s how I supported myself through my undergraduate education,” Claussen said.
But Claussen says the restaurant industry can be difficult. “There are no weekends off, no holidays off, and when everyone else is on vacation, you’re the busiest… so it’s a tough job. I still miss cooking — I’m French and Creole-trained, and like to cook seafood and complex dishes like stews and gumbos, and bread, too. But cooking definitely wasn’t a mainstream career, and there’s a low ceiling in that industry.”
So over the course of the next decade, Claussen attended school on and off between moves and job changes, and eventually graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. He began the biostatistics PhD program a few years later in the fall of 2016.
“I figured if I got into the biostatistics program, I could use my degree to contribute to medical research and possibly do impactful things in the world,” Claussen said.
While in graduate school, Claussen has been involved in a myriad of ways. Since spring 2018, he has been a representative on the graduate student council for his department, and was awarded outstanding graduate student for his program in spring 2019.
His role models for excellence include his wife and his brother-in-law. “Both have excelled in their careers — my brother-in-law is now a partner at a large environmental law firm in Florida, and my wife is a psychologist who runs her own therapy practice. She’s also an AU alum, and an exceptional counselor.”
At AU, Claussen sees excellence every day in the faculty. “We have young faculty members who are pushing for excellence at the start of their careers. We also have older faculty who have been in their fields for a very long time, and have established themselves as excellent,” he says.
“It’s a good mix of people who’ve had great careers already, and those starting out who are trying to attain excellence. And I’ve been fortunate to work with both.”
Regarding his personal philosophy on excellence, Claussen says it’s everyone’s responsibility to do whatever they do the best they can. “You’d think perfection is what people shoot for, but you can never be perfect. When I’m working and doing research, I’m just trying to present and create the best work that I can. I did the same in my culinary career,” he said.
Hear more from Roberto Aragon, coordinator for Student Involvement on In the Wild podcast.
His best advice: “No matter what your job is, do your best.”
“Just try to do the best you can for yourself in everything you do. I started my culinary career as a dishwasher, and I tried to be the best dishwasher I could be.”
After graduation, Claussen would like to stay in the medical research industry, whether in academia or the private sector. “I’d like to work for a university or a company that’s performing research for the public good — like cancer research, or research on the spread of the disease. Work that’s good for humanity.”
In the spirit of collegiality, students are encouraged to experience some of the ways AU students display excellence at the Undergraduate Research Fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 11 in the JSAC Breezeway.
Check out more stories of our Values Week honorees. These students ‘prowldly‘ represent our six core values throughout the year.