A young Laura Bridgewater stood at the barre as her ballet instructor, Jackie College, walked around the students, correcting their footwork, posture, and hand movements. Once College got to Bridgewater, she gave her critical feedback on the smallest details. Bridgewater was ecstatic.
“In ballet, receiving corrections means the instructor thinks you’re good. It means you have enough potential that you’re worth correcting,” she says.
Dr. Bridgewater loves productive corrections, whether that be in her dancing, research, classrooms, colleges, or administration.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in microbiology in 1989 from BYU, Dr. Bridgewater earned a PhD at George Washington University in ‘95, researched as a post-doc at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and finally, returned to BYU as a molecular biology professor in ‘99.
She has taught molecular biology to over 5,000 students, and many dozens have been mentored in her research lab. Her research has focused on understanding mechanisms of regulation, particularly in the cartilage of the developing skeleton. More recently, she has conducted research into the way the gut microbiota is affected by diet and stress.
The innovative researcher has also found joy in expanding her view from microscopic cells to the College of Life Sciences—and eventually, to the entire university. Dr. Bridgewater worked as an associate dean for the College of Life Sciences from 2016-2018; she was then appointed as a BYU associate academic vice president (AAVP) from 2018-2022.
"I have loved getting a broader view of campus,” she says. “It’s interesting to see how differently things are done in each college.” Her responsibilities as AAVP included overseeing the university-wide rank and status review process by which faculty members apply for continuing faculty status and progress through the ranks from assistant to associate to full professor. She led an overhaul of the university’s rank and status policy and procedures, which will be implemented across campus this fall.
While Dr. Bridgewater enjoyed serving the faculty as part of the central administration, she’s enthusiastically looking forward to working with the Life Sciences community as dean of the College. “I’m excited to be closer to faculty and students,” she says. “One of the things I most want to do in this new assignment is encourage more conversations about integrating faith and science.” Dr. Bridgewater notes that students are strengthened by associating with faculty members who are outstanding scientists and committed disciples of Christ.
Dr. Bridgewater’s ultimate vision for the College is that every graduate would be able to articulate a clear understanding of the compatibility between the truths contained in the Gospel of Christ and truths discovered through the scientific process.
“Our religion embraces all truth, so students should understand that if a scientific and a religious truth appear to contradict one another, it simply means we don’t know everything yet and that humility and patience are needed,” she says. She knows that this understanding will help graduates maintain a well-integrated combination of scientific excellence and gospel light that lifts and blesses others.