Cailey Newton: How did you get your start? What would you say inspired you and how did the Collins Miller Project and New Age Girls initiative come to life?
Madeleine Gagne: I grew up a dreamer. I love reading and I always wanted to be one of those amazing, smart book characters that I read about. It’s always been about bringing magical books to life for me. My mom says, “magic is just science we don’t understand” and while both my parents are English professors, in seventh grade I began to make the shift from English to science after participating in my school’s science fair. I continued pursuing the project I was working on which was comprised of using alternative algae-based energy sources and it’s grown from there!
CN: That is SO cool! Can you tell us more about the New Age Girls initiative?
MG: Of course! The amount of help and support I’ve received from so many people throughout my work with the Collins Miller Project made me really want other kids to have that same opportunity. The goal is to get girls around the world into the lab. NAG is a way for girls to make some amazing discoveries even though they don’t have the chance in their own homes.
CN: What were you like at fifteen or, I guess maybe a better way to phrase it, how would you say you’ve evolved?
MG: As a tiny freshmen walking into a lab that housed college students - both undergraduate and graduate, it was definitely an intimidating environment. I learned that fear is not something that just goes away though, you’re not born without it. It’s okay to be afraid. It’s amazing how all of these little things that I daydreamed about became real. Now, for me, it’s about turning dreams into reality. I am no longer that timid little freshmen, I’ve grown into a much more confident person.
CN: What advice would you give a teenage girl today?
MG: I think if you’re doing something no one else has done before, it probably means you’re doing something right. You have to be willing to take a chance. When I called Ohio State University, I had to be confident. Make your own path!
Besides being a scientist and always wanting to get her hands on a good science book, Maddie also shared with me her involvement with Girl Scouts; her passion for playing the piano and composing semi classical music; how she’s always looking to connect with new and different people and expand her network; and her love for flying planes (which she learned how to do last summer). By the end of the interview, I felt as if I was talking to a friend and I concluded that not only will she be an incredible role model for the girls, but she’s one of mine as well.