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Q&A with Dean Laura Bridgewater

Q: What did you learn while serving as an associate academic vice president that will add value to your tenure as dean? 

Portrait picture of Dean Laura Bridgewater in her office

A: One of the most valuable things I gained is a better understanding of and appreciation for the unique mission of BYU. We are indeed, as President Spencer W. Kimball said in his Second Century Address, a “unique university in all the world.” We have a sacred responsibility to be “bilingual” in the languages of academic scholarship and spiritual things and to provide high quality education in both languages. I want to reinforce and celebrate this uniqueness in everything our college does.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your first year as dean?

A: I want to hear from members of our college community about how we can better accomplish the mission of BYU. There are people working and studying in offices, classrooms, laboratories, and centers throughout our college who have exceptional insights based on their own experience, and I want to tap into those insights to make sure we focus our efforts in the most productive directions possible.

Q: Who is your hero in science or education, and why?

A: Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin. She was born in 1910 and grew up at a time when it was very difficult for women to have a career at all, let alone one as successful as hers. She did pioneering work with X-ray crystallography. She solved the structures of important biochemical substances including penicillin and vitamin B-12, for which she received the Nobel Prize in 1964. In 1969, she solved the structure of insulin. She was married and had children, which I can relate to. I love her commitment to precision and excellence, and I love that she didn’t seem to care if others found her unconventional.

Q: What can you be found doing on a Saturday or a long weekend? 

A: I like being outside as much as possible. Hiking, walking, even yard work. I love sunshine!

Q: In the life sciences, we strive to inspire curiosity. So, what is your question? 

A: Everybody starts out as a single-cell embryo with complete set of genes. As the embryo develops, every new cell gets a copy of all those same genes. How, exactly, are genes turned on and off at different times and in different places during embryonic development so that we grow structures and organs rather than a becoming a big ball of cells that are all identical to that first cell?