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Following Her Role Model’s Path

Published: December 19, 2016

Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs may have said it best—“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” It is a wonderful thing when a career and a passion blend together, which is exactly what has happened for Kady Lyons.

Lyons, who earned her master’s degree from CSULB in 2013 in biology, recently received the Eugenie Clark Award from the American Elasmobranch Society (AES). AES is a non-profit organization that seeks to advance the scientific study of living and fossil sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras, as well as the promotion of education, conservation and wise utilization of natural resources.

The award is in honor of the late Eugenie Clark, who is viewed as a pioneer in shark research for being the first female shark scientist. She was often referred to as the Shark Lady.

“I honestly remember being younger and reading books written by Dr. Clark about sharks and just to receive this award in her memory is an honor,” said Lyons.

It is thanks to books like the ones by Clark and frequent trips with her parents to various aquariums that helped Lyons nurture her passion for marine biology.

“Kady never slept and had a constant curiosity and drive for science; she essentially was a dream student,” said Christopher G. Lowe, Director of the Shark Lab at CSULB and a biological sciences’ professor who nominated Lyons for the award.

She met Lowe during the senior year of her undergraduate studies, which she was completing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Lyons was looking to do research for a marine lab in any capacity and, being from Southern California, reached out to labs from the region.

“I contacted his grad students and asked if they wanted any free labor for the summer,” said Lyons while laughing. “Of course, they said ‘Yes.’”

After completing her undergraduate degree, Lyons knew she wanted to continue doing research in her field. She talked to several peers and professors and they recommended that she go for her master’s before going for her doctorate.

“I remember talking to two of my grad students and they both said that I should really consider taking her as a grad student because of her drive, commitment and smarts,” said Lowe. “They were absolutely right.”

Christopher G. Lowe in left and Kady Lyons
Christopher G. Lowe (l) and Kady Lyons

While a master’s student at CSULB, Lyons worked with Lowe on a maternal offloading project that he wanted to get started. The study researched how females inadvertently transfer contaminants to their young during pregnancy.

Since graduating from CSULB, Lyons has been pursuing a doctoral degree from the University of Calgary, but still finds time to come back during summers to do research.

Lowe has high expectations for his award-winning student.

“She will eventually become the director of the National Science Foundation,” said Lowe. “She is that smart and that talented.”

Lyons knows without a doubt that research is in her future; specifically, looking at the crossroads between toxicology and physiology.

“I just don’t think I would be a happy person if I wasn’t able to exercise [my research] mentally,” said Lyons.