The Haug Triplets, (from left) Rebecca, Priscilla, and Melissa

The Haug Triplets, (from left) Rebecca, Priscilla, and Melissa, will graduate from The College of Wooster on Monday morning. 


Triplets Share Uncommon Variety of Common Interests

Haug Sisters to graduate Monday morning with degrees in neuroscience

May 14, 2012 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Triplets are known to have a lot in common — well beyond their physical resemblance — but The College of Wooster’s Haug sisters have taken their similarities to an entirely new level.

For starters, Melissa, Priscilla, and Rebecca are identical — a rarity for triplets. But that’s only the beginning. All three majored in neuroscience with minors in chemistry, and all three earned honors on their Senior Independent Study (I.S.) project (Wooster’s nationally renowned undergraduate research experience). They all swam competitively at the varsity level for four years, and they all chose to live in the same residence halls all four years. They also shared the same circle of friends and took similar classes. In addition, all three plan to attend medical school after graduation. Melissa is looking to pursue sports medicine or emergency medicine; Priscilla is thinking about neurology; and Rebecca is considering neurosurgery.

Born in the Cleveland suburb of Bay Village, the family moved to Lexington, Ky., when the triplets were 9 years old. Several years later they moved to Charlotte, N.C., where the family still resides. But when it came time to choose a college, the three selected Wooster because of its academic credentials — and, believe it or not, because they actually like the weather in northeast Ohio.

“We like the snow, but that’s not the only reason we came to Wooster,” says Melissa. “Our high school counselor highly recommended it because of Senior I.S. We had other Ohio schools on our list, but we chose Wooster because of its academics, especially Independent Study, and because it was a place where we could participate in a very competitive swim program.”

Initially, the three sisters appeared to be headed down different paths of study. Rebecca planned to major in neuroscience, but Priscilla and Melissa had other ideas. Priscilla was interested in biochemistry and molecular biology, while Melissa was originally thinking about biology, but switched to chemistry. Then a mutual friend suggested that they take a class in human neuropsychology, which was taught by Amy Jo Stavnezer, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience. “We learned about neurological disorders and diseases, as well as how the brain controls the body and behavior,” says Priscilla. “The subject was not only interesting, but it was also challenging, and it led Melissa and I to join Rebecca as neuroscience majors.”

Since that decision, the triplets excelled academically and athletically. Their grade-point averages range from 3.5-3.8, and all three had considerable success as members of the varsity swim team. In fact, Melissa and Priscilla set school records and qualified for the NCAA Division III Championship Meet this year.

Sometimes their competitive nature gets the best of them, but for the most part they are able to manage their emotions. “We’re competitive in all facets of our lives, especially academically,” says Rebecca. “It is this competitiveness that has allowed us to excel, both in and out of the pool.”

Put them together in a room, and things are much more relaxed as the sisters seem to complete each other’s sentences, like a monologue but with three people. Their older brother calls it “triplet surround sound,” according to Priscilla.

As similar as they appear, there are a few differences among the three, ranging from their personalities to their favorite foods. Each has pursued their individual interest in neuroscience in different directions. Priscilla’s I.S. project used a mouse model to investigate the effects of stress on Alzheimer’s disease, while Rebecca explored the restorative effects of swimming on a rodent model of Parkinson’s disease. Melissa’s project, “Life’s Tough, Wear a Helmet”, investigated the lasting effects of multiple concussions on college athletes.

Whatever differences they may have, it never seems to weaken the bonds of sisterhood. “We sometimes argue about wearing each other’s clothes or jewelry,” says Melissa, “but it usually doesn’t last for more than a few moments.”

As serious as they have been about swimming and their studies, the Haugs have not been above a little mischief every once in a while. Although they’ve never tried to pull a switch on one of the other’s boyfriends or in one of their classes, they have been known to trade swim caps and switch lanes during practice, just to confuse their teammates and coaches.

After graduation, this talented trio will split up and go in different directions, but not just yet. After receiving their diplomas Monday morning at Wooster’s commencement ceremony, the three will embark upon a summer research internship at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which is affiliated with the medical school. Then they will go their separate ways, but not without a few reflections on the past four years. “We’ve really enjoyed our time at Wooster,” says Melissa. “It was an unforgettable experience, and I am glad I could share it with my sisters.”