- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
"Her" is aquatic entomologist Sharon Lawler of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, now a professor emerita.
Lawler retired in January after a 28-year career at UC Davis, but was cleaning out her office and lab recently and took time to answer a few questions.
She is known as a “A dedicated teacher and mentor, an aquatic insect expert, a role model, and a compassionate human being.”
Although an emerita, she's still mentoring students and doing research.
“Sharon always put the needs of students first,” said longtime colleague, UC Distinguished Professor Richard “Rick” Karban, a community ecologist in the Department of Entomology and Nematology. “She was focused on what they needed from her rather than the other way around. In the department, she did more than her fair share of student-centric tasks. She was committed to accommodating and including the diverse circumstances of students before that was on many people's radars. Co-teaching community ecology with Sharon for 28 years, I learned a lot about science and even more about how to treat other people with compassion.”
“One incident that stands out for me,” Karban recalled, “is a time that we were walking back to Briggs Hall from teaching on the east side of campus. “Near the Memorial Union, we saw someone who was having a bad trip. He was yelling, waving his arms, and stumbling around. My reaction was to get away from the guy in case he was dangerous. Instead, Sharon went over to him to see if she could help. She stayed and talked with him to make sure he was okay.”
Richard Kim, a doctoral candidate whom she co-advises (with Professor Marissa Baskett, Department of Environmental Science and Policy), describes Lawler as “an amazing researcher and an outstanding role-model as a supervisor; joining her lab was one of the best decisions I've made in life.”
Kim, who holds a master's degree in biology from San Francisco State University (2017), commented: “Sharon has been advising my projects related to predator-prey relationships between the imperiled giant garter snakes and non-native bullfrogs: (1) experimental feeding trials and (2) mark-recapture surveying in the field. We are currently working to prepare manuscripts that will inform conservation strategies for the snakes by alternative controlling strategies for bullfrogs. Throughout my graduate school experience, Sharon provided not only academic guidance but also sincere advice and support during my personal and health difficulties. She truly is one of the role models I have in life, as a scientist and as a P.I. (principal investigator).
See the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology feature story here and more images.
Nematologist Shahid Siddique, associate professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, wrote in the comments: "Sharon's retirement marks the end of an era for our Entomology and Nematology Department. Not only has she been an outstanding colleague, but also a dear friend to many of us. Sharon's compassion and willingness to help have always stood out. When I joined the department during the challenging times of COVID-19, it was Sharon who ensured I was settling in well. Her invaluable assistance played a very important role in helping me establish myself in Davis. We will deeply miss her presence, but her legacy of kindness and support will undoubtedly live on. Wishing Sharon all the best in her well-deserved retirement."
Thank you, Professor Emerita Sharon Lawler!