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Road to Research: A Q&A with Associate Scientist Olivia Lynch

“I am fortunate to work at a place where we are all able to collectively contribute to realizing the vision and mission of our founders, Jim and Virginia Stowers.”

10 May 2024

What brought you to the Stowers Institute?

One of my parents worked at American Century Investments, and I always heard wonderful stories about Jim and Virginia Stowers and their extraordinary generosity. After I graduated with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Kansas, I was looking for a path that could combine my love for research with my personal values in a way that felt meaningful. I began researching the Stowers Institute and recognized its mission naturally aligned with mine. Once I realized the breadth of aquatic creatures I would have the opportunity to work with at the Institute, I was completely hooked (although, I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t be hooked after staring into the cute googly eyes of a planarian flatworm!).

Why are you interested in your field of research?

I find aquatic invertebrates so fascinating! Each type of research organism I work with has its own unique and important role in contributing to discovery science.

Last August, my team and I eagerly huddled in a dark, cramped room in the middle of the night to watch coral spawn for the first time—it was one of the most exciting moments of our careers and solidified our passion for this type of work. I think we all live for moments like that. By successfully spawning these coral, we would be able to provide researchers with materials that otherwise could only be accessed by traveling to other parts of the world.

What inspires you to keep working in your field?

I am surrounded by team members and researchers who inspire me daily with their passion, their knowledge, and their creativity. I am continually learning from every person who I work with, and each one of them motivates me to push myself to the best of my ability. I am fortunate to work at a place where we are all able to collectively contribute to realizing the vision and mission of our founders, Jim and Virginia Stowers.

What have you found most rewarding about your work?

Providing the best care for every research organism under my care. Some (like coral) may be bright and beautiful and some (like the tiny, yet bountiful planarians) may be unassuming and often overlooked, but they are all equally important in the world of scientific research.

What impact do you hope your research will have?

I hope my work can contribute to advancement in development, reproduction, and regeneration. I also hope to serve as a catalyst for other members of the Institute to accomplish their own aspirations during their time here. Whether I’m assisting a predoctoral researcher with an ambitious experiment studying planarians, teaching a new technician the patience to hand-feed hundreds of sea anemones, or Nematostella, or working with a postdoc to develop their own facility using the animals we have helped care for—any small part I can play, I hope I can make a positive impact on the journey of those I encounter.

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