Spring 2009 Distinguished Alumna
LOUISA A. STARK, '79
Dr. Louisa A. Stark is a leader in genetics and genomics education, having made notable contributions to the field of science education that are of national and international significance. She is director of the University of Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center. She also serves the University of Utah as clinical professor of Science Education and associate director of the School of Medicine’s Community Engagement Core Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences.
Stark earned a bachelor of science in biology from Grand Valley State University in 1979, where she spent several years as a teachers assistant. This role provided the foundation for her interest in becoming an educator and ignited her ongoing interest in facilitating learning for others.
Following graduation, she worked for six years as a research assistant and laboratory manager in the neurophysiology research laboratory at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She was accepted into UCB’s graduate school and earned a Ph.D. in evolutionary genetics in 1992. Her graduate work was supported in-part by a highly-competitive and prestigious pre-doctoral fellowship from the National Science Foundation.
During her final year in graduate school, she began work with the UCB Hughes Biological Science Education Initiative (HBSEI), promoting science in Denver’s inner-city high schools and conducting professional development workshops for teachers in the area. This work sparked her passion for science education and the focus of her career.
After earning her doctoral degree, Stark worked as scientist-in-residence, a position which she helped create for HBSEI, and significantly expanded the organization’s science education outreach and professional development programs for area teachers. She eventually advanced to the role of senior scientist.
In 1999, she began work for the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah. The Center is a science education outreach and partnership program with the mission of “making science easy for everyone to understand.” Under her direction, the center has gained a national and international reputation for producing high quality educational materials and offering teacher professional development programs. It is best known for its Learn.Genetics Web site, the most widely-disseminated genetics education site in the world. The site provides easy-to-understand educational materials focused on genetics, life science and health. In addition to the educational materials it produces, the Center annually provides professional development for over 600 primary and secondary teachers throughout the world.
For her marked contributions to science education, Stark has received numerous recognitions from prestigious groups, including the American Society of Human Genetics’ Award for Excellence in Human Genetics Education, and the Utah Science Teachers Association’s lifetime achievement award. She has held numerous elected positions in national organizations and served on various national boards and committees. She is an accomplished grantsmaker and author, and her expertise is sought internationally through consultations, invited lectures and presentations, and to organize national meetings.
Stark and her husband currently reside in Salt Lake City, UT.