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2021 Predoctoral Researchers


Olivia Lawler

John Brown University

Olivia Lawler fell in love with science over a centrifuge. As a high school honors biology student, she had to shadow someone working in a STEM field. She selected a family friend who was a biochemist studying the effects of drugs on liver cells. Learning the theory behind centrifugation, she became fascinated by the idea of contributing to the knowledge of human health through lab work.

Later, Lawler attended John Brown University (JBU) for a bachelor’s degree in biology. She spent two years in the Wang Lab there, studying the modulation of GABAergic interneuron circuits in major depressive disorder. During her final year at JBU, she investigated the role of acetylated p53(K320) in Parkinson’s Disease.

In 2019, following a neighbor’s recommendation, Lawler applied to the Stowers Summer Scholar program and spent eleven weeks working in the Yu Lab. Since then, she has returned to work in the lab during long school breaks.

“The whole lab dynamic was challenging yet inviting, and this was most evident in lab meetings,” says Lawler. “I am so thankful to have had the space to learn, make mistakes, and grow in my technical and academic skills.”

Being part of a Stowers lab allowed Lawler to see firsthand the advantages of the Graduate School. She was drawn to the unique structure of the program, with course modules completed first, followed by lab rotations, then thesis lab selection. She’s looking forward to acquiring more technical skills and collaborating with researchers both at Stowers and beyond to develop a meaningful independent research project for her thesis. Inspired by her father’s battle with the disease, Lawler’s long-term goal is to research Parkinson’s Disease at the cellular/molecular level with the hopes of understanding what factors lead to its onset.

Lawler enjoys choral singing, running, cooking, and crocheting in her free time. A native of the Kansas City metropolitan area, she also makes sure to spend plenty of time with family and friends.