Layla Stahr


Year of Birth 1995

Hometown Tustin, California, USA

Nationality American

College Christ Church

Undergrad/Graduate PhD

Year 3rd

What are you studying? I am working towards a DPhil in Neuroscience. My research focuses on a ketamine model of schizophrenia and the neural correlates of sensory decision making that we can study using a technique called EEG.

What is the most interesting part of your course? Do you have any professional or academic plans after? Being able to see an individual’s brain activity in real time as they are completing various decision-making tasks. Later we can analyse that brain activity in a manner that allows us to better understand the neural computations involved in processing our sensory environment and making decisions every day. After I finish my DPhil, I will be returning to the US to attend Harvard Law School.

Future ambitions? I plan on using my background in neuroscience to help push for change in the legal system. Specifically, I hope to focus on the treatment of those with psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia. I hope to correct the disconnect between scientific research and its legal applications and bridge the gap between neuroscience and law.

How do you balance rowing and academic life? I have found that the combination of university rowing and a rigorous academic life has actually led to better performance in both areas. Because I am very aware of my general health and its importance in setting me up for success in rowing, I prioritise nutrition and sleep. This emphasis on good physical health also enhances mental health. Furthermore, because of my rowing schedule, I have found that I am more productive in the lab, as I know that the amount of time I will be able to spend there is limited.

When did you start rowing, and why? I started rowing when I first came to Oxford in 2017 for my Masters. I had been to the Head of the Charles every year of being an undergraduate as a spectator and had thought it looked fun and exciting.

What was your first club? Christ Church Boat Club.

What is your favourite part of rowing for Oxford? My favourite part is definitely being part of the amazing community of rowers at OUW. The team is incredibly supportive.

What’s your rowing history, and what has been your biggest achievement so far? I started rowing with Christ Church in 2017 and rowed with them until I began rowing with OUW this fall. My biggest achievement so far was rowing in Head of the Charles last year.

Have you raced in the Boat Race before? No.

Your favourite race so far? As mentioned above, it was definitely Head of the Charles.

Do you have any race day habits or superstitions? I usually make two race day music playlists - one that is a bit more high energy to get me excited about racing, and a second that is more intense to switch into the racing mindset.

Your sporting idol? Serena Williams.

If you could have any sportsperson in your crew, who would it be? I’d love to be in a crew with Philip Doyle. I think being able to balance rowing with a medical career is incredibly admirable.

What gets you through a tough session? Do you have a mantra, rituals? I think back to my first year rowing and how much I looked up to the women and men from our club who rowed for the university, and recognising that I’ve made it this far always pushes me to work harder.

Any hobbies, other interests outside rowing? I also play tennis, though at a much lower level.

How do you motivate yourself and your teammates, especially with Covid restrictions? I always like to keep perspective about the challenges in my life relative to those of others. When it feels like finishing an erg in lockdown is an unsurmountable struggle, I think of how fortunate I am to be able to continue exercising and training, albeit in a different form with the pandemic. That recognition of how lucky we are to be students at Oxford with access to such great coaching and resources amidst what can only be described as a chaotic world always pushes me to keep going and to remember the light at the end of the tunnel.