Laura Olsen

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Laura Olsen

Director of the Program in Biology
Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of MCDB
Professor of EEB

Office Location(s): 4103C Kraus Natural Science Building
Phone: 734.763.0976
Lab Phone: 734.647.3970
Olsen Lab
View Curriculum Vitae

  • Affiliation(s)
    • Program in Biology
    • Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
    • Program in the Environment
  • Fields of Study
    • Plant cell biology
    • peroxisome physiology, proteomics, assembly, and degradation
  • About

    Academic background

    Professor Olsen earned her Ph.D. degree in Botany from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and was an NIH Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Davis.  Her Master’s degree in Botany is from Iowa State University.  She did her bachelor’s degree at Doane College in Crete, NE, where she had a double major in math and biology, and a minor in German.  Since being at the University of Michigan, she was awarded the Class of 1923 Memorial Teaching Award in 1996, the Amoco Foundation Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2000, the John Dewey Teaching Award in 2011, and has been an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor since 2001.

    Research interests

    Research in the Olsen lab focuses on peroxisome biogenesis and degradation. More specifically, we study peroxisome assembly, peroxisome proteomics, and peroxisomal proteases in plants.

    Proteins synthesized in the cytoplasm must be targeted to their proper subcellular location and transported across the appropriate organellar membrane boundaries. Our research focuses on the assembly of peroxisomes, which are small organelles present in all eukaryotes. A combination of cell biology, biochemistry, and molecular biology are used to investigate the mechanisms of protein transport into peroxisomes. Recent projects have included the development of an in vitro assay to reconstitute import, characterization of the energetics and chaperones involved in the process, and studies on the molecular mechanisms responsible for import of proteins along different import pathways. Most recently, the Olsen lab has begun a collaborative project to define the proteome of plant peroxisomes and to investigate the novel proteins discovered with this approach. In addition to being an intrinsically interesting basic biological problem, an understanding of protein trafficking in cells is critical as scientists design strategies to genetically engineer crop plants. It also provides an experimental vehicle to investigate the mistargeting of peroxisomal proteins, which is the cause of many severe neurological disorders in humans.


    Biology 172  Introduction to Biology – MCDB
    Biology 174  Introduction to Cell and Molecular Biology
    Biology 200  Undergraduate Tutorial
    Biology 230  Introduction to Plant Biology
    MCBD 300/400  Undergraduate Research
    MCDB 397/EEB 397  Writing in Biology (counts for ULWR)
    MCDB 412  Undergraduate Teaching in MCDB

  • Research Areas of Interest
    • Plant cell biology