Laurie McNeil spent her childhood in Ann Arbor, Michigan before studying Chemistry and Physics at Radcliffe College (Harvard University) and Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she received her Ph.D. in 1982. After spending two years conducting research at MIT, she moved to Chapel Hill, where she has taught elementary physics, optics, solid-state physics, and materials science. Her seminar grows out of her life as a choral singer (and, earlier, a violinist and recorder player). When not singing with the Choral Society of Durham, she can be found in her laboratory using lasers to study the properties of materials.