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Impact Magazine

New Life Sciences Faculty

Ryan Cordner

Microbiology & Molecular Biology

Ryan Cordner was born in Long Beach, California and moved to Provo with his family when he was eight years old. Cordner received his bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory science from BYU, doing research in a lab and completing a research internship at the Mayo Clinic during his studies. He then worked as a medical technologist at Primary Children’s Medical Center before earning his Ph.D. from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in biomedical science and translational medicine. He started work at BYU as an assistant teaching professor in the medical laboratory science program one month after he finished graduate school, having been encouraged to apply for the position by the program director. Cordner said that he always thought of BYU as a very special place, saying, “Being able to freely invite the spirit into teaching and learning makes BYU a wonderful place to teach scientific truths in the light of the gospel.” While here, Cordner intends to make sure that every graduate of the medical laboratory science program is competent and confident in their skills.

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Steven Leavitt


You can usually find Steve Leavitt—a new biology faculty member—in the basement of the Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, where he runs what is colloquially known as the “Lichen Lab.” With both a bachelor’s degree in plant sciences and a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from BYU, Leavitt joined BYU’s faculty after five years of postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago’s Field Museum. An expert in lichenology, Leavitt—who is originally from Alpine, Utah—spent his childhood catching lizards and collecting plants. And when he isn’t teaching or researching on campus, he’s with his family doing “all the good, normal things” which, for the Leavitts, includes plenty of time outdoors, enjoying the diversity of God’s creation. Through teaching, researching and working with students individually, Leavitt hopes to fulfill BYU’s responsibility in helping “us all appreciate our roles as stewards of the earth.”

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Lori Spruance

Health Science

Born and raised in Boise, Idaho, Lori Spruance is a new faculty member in the Department of Health Science. After becoming fascinated with childhood obesity as a physical education undergraduate at Utah State University, she received a master’s degree in health promotion from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Research interests piqued, Spruance then completed her Ph.D. in public health and clinical medicine at Tulane University. She focused her research on school nutrition and breakfast programs. Spruance also studied the effects of sweetened beverage consumption and binge TV watching. Recently married, Spruance and her husband are currently in the process of remodeling what she calls their “1960s dream home.” While she hopes to prepare all of her students for future careers in the area of public health, Spruance is particularly keen on motivating women in the field, who “can always continue to influence the public health sphere, whether that’s as a mother, an employee or both.”


Nathan Stokes

Nutrition, Dietetics & Food Science

Idaho native Nathan Stokes holds degrees from BYU Idaho in culinary arts and applied management, as well as a master’s degree from Texas Tech in restaurant and hotel management. He also has a Ph.D. from Iowa State University in hospitality management. After four degrees, four children, and living in four different states, Stokes is happy to be at BYU, where he began working in the summer of 2016. He is currently teaching courses in food service systems and culinary arts. Stokes hopes that through his instruction, he can influence students’ lives for the better. And while he first fell in love with food while baking with his mother as a child, he now takes that love a step further in researching farm-to-school nutrition programs so that elementary-aged children are better exposed to the goodness of local produce. Getting his own children to eat fruits and vegetables? That, according to Stokes, is a “work in progress.”

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Photo by SJ Tittle/BYU

Emily Patten

Nutrition, Dietetics & Food Science

At age 14, Emily Patten attended a Young Women’s activity featuring a dietician guest speaker. Patten came away from that activity determined to follow a similar career path. “The science of nutrition fascinated me,” she recalls. “Now, I focus more on the administration of nutritional programs [and leadership in the workplace].” A native of Boise, Idaho, Patten received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from BYU, the first in dietetics and the second in nutritional science. For three years, she channeled her energies toward managing patient food services and working as a clinical dietician for Intermountain Health Care. Then, she received a Ph.D. at Kansas State University in human ecology with a specialization in dietetics administration. Currently teaching a management and dietetics course, Patten wants “to help students become leaders in the food nutrition field and in their communities.”


Joshua Stowers


Josh Stowers grew up in a small coastal town in Oregon, where he gained a love for biology as he explored the surrounding mountains and forests. Stowers was also inspired by a high school biology teacher, who motivated him to pursue biology teaching. After graduating from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in biology composite teaching, Stowers received a master’s degree in learning and technology from Western Governors University. He then spent the next 17 years teaching junior high science at schools throughout Utah before returning to BYU to teach. Stowers says, “A major factor in deciding to come here was the understanding that, rather than having a positive impact on 230 junior high students every year, I could positively influence 10 to 20 biological science education majors, who would each go out and influence 200 students each year for the next 30 years.” Stowers’ greatest career desire is to help students recognize that their influence will go well beyond teaching science.