Shyril O’Steen rowed at the University of Washington. Prior to the 1984 Olympics she rowed for the US at the 1981-83 World Championships, winning three medals, two silvers in the eights in 1982-83 and a 1982 bronze in the coxed fours. After graduating from Washington, O’Steen returned to graduate school. She had always loved animals and science as a child, and used that to obtain a PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago. O’Steen became a biology professor, first at Bates College in Maine and then at Seattle University where she taught evolution, animal behavior, and biology.
O’Steen then had a physical setback when she was diagnosed with lymphoma but she fought through the disease and overcame it. In 2014 she joined the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center as a lymphoma researcher.