Meet Laurie Shornick

Laurie Shornick is Professor and Chair of the Department of Biology at Saint Louis University.  She runs the largest department of the College of Arts and Sciences with approximately 40 people made up of teaching faculty, tenured track faculty, and staff. Laurie also oversees the Institutional Biosafety Committee and manages a research lab focused on immunology and virology.  Her research focuses on the immune response to respiratory viral infection in the lung and also on diabetic wound healing.   

Laurie has loved science since she was a young girl. She was a biology major in college, but she didn’t have a good experience. Most of her professors were older white men and the message she received was “you don’t belong here.” As one of the few women in the biology program she was patronized, teased and physically harassed. She changed majors and graduated with a degree in English Literature to get away from the misogyny. However, she missed science and went back to school to earn both a master’s and Ph.D. This experience motivated her to encourage young scientists and to do everything she could to support diversity, equity, and inclusion in her field. In her role as Chair, she is working to make the biology department inclusive for women, first generation students and all historically excluded groups.  

Laurie also sits on the Board of Trustees for Thomas Jefferson School, a small international boarding school in St. Louis that seeks to help students take responsibility for their own learning and to lift the world with beauty and intellect. Her son attended school there and they found it to be a hidden gem in our community. 

When she’s not working, Laurie is committed to weightlifting and lifts four times each week—a recent change in her lifestyle that makes her feel empowered both physically and emotionally. She also enjoys hiking and reading.

Laurie recommends her favorite book: “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot.  It is a fascinating non-fiction account of the first cell line that scientists were able to grow in the lab. A black woman, Henrietta Lacks, sought treatment for an invasive cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins. Without her knowledge or consent, the attending physician removed a portion of the tumor to grow in the lab. It’s a vital bio-ethics story. Many companies profited, but neither Henrietta nor the Lacks family received a portion of those profits. Laurie keeps a stack of this book in her office to give to interested students.