Graduating student on a pursuit of answering questions via research

Abby Fowler standing in front of her research poster at a conference
Abby Fowler, graduating senior in microbiology, enjoys sharing her research with others, including at poster competitions. With graduate school as her next step, she hopes to continue sharing science with others, either through community science outreach or written media.

By Whitney Baxter

From a young researcher learning the ropes to a more experienced one mentoring younger researchers, Abby Fowler has fostered her research passion through working in Iowa State University labs.

A graduating senior in microbiology, Fowler chose to enroll at Iowa State because of the vast research opportunities available to undergraduate students. She joined Donald Sakaguchi’s lab her freshman year as part of her involvement in the First-Year Honors Mentor Program.

“Dr. Sakaguchi helped me decide who I wanted to become as a researcher. He’s a great mentor and really cares about helping his students succeed,” Fowler said.

She has worked her way up in the lab through Sakaguchi’s Vertically Integrated Program and now teaches younger students how to carry out various lab procedures.

“Abby is the type of student a professor hopes for as a new student joining their lab,” said Sakaguchi, director of the biology and genetics undergraduate program and Morrill Professor of genetics, development and cell biology. “She has been an outstanding ‘lab citizen’ and has been involved in training and supervising new students in my lab. It has been a pleasure having Abby as a member of the Sakaguchi Lab at Iowa State.”

Fowler has also spent time working in the lab of Walter Moss, associate professor of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology. There, Fowler has experienced the biochemical and cellular side of lab research.

Abby Fowler sitting at a lab bench with a microscope on it. She is wearing a white lab coat.
During her time at Iowa State, Abby Fowler has taken advantage of the vast research opportunities available to undergraduate students. She now mentors younger students in the lab, teaching them how to carry out various lab procedures.

Aside from helping fellow students in the lab, Fowler also has served as a teaching assistant and tutor for microbiology and organic chemistry classes. She has enjoyed the challenge of explaining different concepts taught in class and why those concepts are important to learn.

“Whether it is tutoring students in microbiology, organic chemistry or genetics; teaching her lab mates the latest molecular imaging techniques in the lab; or listening to students talk about their academic passions at club meetings, Abby makes everyone around her better,” said Kent Kerby, Pre-Medical Club advisor and assistant dean for academic student success in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Those club meetings include Fowler’s involvement in the Pre-Medical Club. Her greatest accomplishment through the club was helping organize the first hybrid Pre-Health Symposium for students last fall. Approximately 200 students were in attendance in-person, in addition to those who joined online.

“Helping students find resources and get connected to other people in the health and medical fields was very meaningful to me,” Fowler said.

Kerby was impressed by Fowler’s leadership in organizing the symposium.

“Abby is an incredibly gifted individual that stays extremely busy,” Kerby said. “As co-chair of the Pre-Health Symposium, she had a large team of students helping organize it, but everyone commented that she did all the heavy lifting, yet freely gave the credit to those around her.”

The next step in Fowler’s research journey will be attending graduate school at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine. There, she will gain experience working in the institution’s large stem cell center, with the goal of one day serving in a biotechnology research position. She also hopes to continue sharing science with others, either through community science outreach or written media.

“As a kid, I loved writing. I’m inspired by science communication and want to share science with the world through accessible forms of media,” Fowler said. “As Sir Mark Walport said, ‘Science isn’t finished until it is communicated.’”