Staff Profile: Laura Coughlin 

Vicky Tsur


Laura Coughlin is our much-loved STEM teacher in 7th and 8th grade. She answered our questions and told us about an important personal journey she is embarking on and how her students are supporting her on that journey. You won’t want to miss this! 

1. How long have you lived in the Bay Area, where did you come from, and what brought you here?

I am from the Bay Area and went to high school at the Bay School of San Francisco in the Presidio. I went to undergrad in Massachusetts, where I met my husband and bounced around from then on, ending up in Ontario for 4 years for my husband’s post-doc, before relocating home to the Bay last year during the pandemic. 

2. What is your role at Hausner and how long have you been here? 

I am the grades 7 and 8 STEM teacher and I've been at Hausner for 2 years. 

3. What was the highlight of your working week?

The highlight of my working week is whenever I get to see students have that mental spark in class. I love seeing kids engaged in labs or getting excited about science ideas. One of my favorite parts of our week is seeing kids getting creative building their own projects in STEM electives, or talking about their passion projects in advisory.

4. What do you do when you're not at work?

When I'm not at work I am usually at home with my husband Zach and our Cats, RuPawl and Eleanor Roosevelt. We do a lot of adventurous cooking and have been enjoying taking advantage of the amazing produce available here in California. I am also a long-time oil painter and work on projects on my easel outside on my balcony, so I don't fume up the apartment. I also spend a lot of time in the Hausner garden hanging out with the STEM room tortoises Gary and Sunny, and on various sewing projects.

5. What do you think you would do if you weren't a teacher?

My science background is in developmental and cell biology, so if I hadn't found teaching I'd likely still be doing that. Most of the projects I found really exciting had to do with the kinetics of reactions in cells: fast conduction proteins, vesicle trafficking, and enzyme catalysis. I worked in different animal models and on HEK cells, but if I could wave a magic wand and have a dream project I would love to work on coastal redwood RUBISCO and the CRoPS (CO2 Removal on a Planetary Scale) Project, which aims to develop crops called Salk Ideal Plants that would express this hyper-efficient carbon fixing enzyme in food staple cultivars. It has the potential to significantly reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide. It's a project that is a clear example of what I love about biology; there is such a clear relationship between the experimental question and a benefit to society.

6. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

Once in Canada, I was in a cafe, and a beaver casually strolled in the automatic doors and posted up near a corner table. I also have a story where I once struck a goat with a golf cart. The goat was fine. 

7. What is your favorite Hebrew word?

Full disclosure: I grew up Irish Catholic and am in the process of converting to Judaism so I don't have an expansive Hebrew vocabulary. Phrases I hear a lot around the school include "Sheck-et bah vah kah shah" (quiet, please) and "ani lo mevina" (I don’t understand). When I'm learning how to say standard prayers and blessings the kids are always ready to jump in and correct me, and truly have been very helpful. I'm taking a class where we talked about the concepts of "tzedek" vs. "tzedakah" and I really like that Hebrew/Judaism has such a nuanced and multifaceted approach to justice. 

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