Tradition Continues with Christening of New Genomics Lab

Genomics is a "hands-on" experience in the lab of professors Malcolm Campbell and Laurie Heyer. The longstanding tradition of students leaving their handprints on the walls of the Campbell-Heyer lab in Dana Science Building recently was continued in the lab's new home in the E. Craig Wall Jr. Academic Center.

Campbell has a catalogue of each of the prints in the old lab–he can tell you who they belong to and where his former students are now. To continue that tradition in their new space, Campbell, Heyer and several current students met in the new lab to ceremoniously dip their hands in colorful paint, christening the pristine walls of the facility with their prints.

The Wall Center was designed to enhance transdisciplinary activity, enable innovative forms of learning, and provide a premier, collaborative space for chemistry, biology, psychology, neuroscience, environmental studies and all related computer science applications, as well as gathering spaces for the arts, lectures and community building.

Campbell, a professor of biology and director of the of the James G. Martin Genomics Program, and Kimbrough Professor of Mathematics and Chair of Mathematics and Computer Science Heyer have long been pioneers in teaching synthetic biology to undergraduates. The two developed one of the first undergraduate research programs in genomics in 2001 and coauthored the first true undergraduate textbook in genomics, Discovering Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics, in 2002. They are also the founders of the Genome Consortium for Active Teaching (GCAT), an international organization that increases the number of faculty teaching genomics to undergraduates.

The genomics program at Davidson introduces students to an interdisciplinary field that uses biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science and engineering.

Wall of Fame

Alumni whose handprints were on the walls of the former lab in Dana Science Building have gone on to work in research, academia and for private companies and startups focused on some of the most interesting and pressing issues of our time, including the gut microbiome and cancer.

"I recently founded a startup company in San Francisco called Novome Biotechnologies that is genetically reprogramming the microbes that live in our gut to treat gastrointestinal diseases. We work in the field of synthetic biology, which I originally became interested in while working in the Campbell Lab during the summer of 2007.

"Working in the Campbell Lab gave me a new perspective on what scientists actually do. Unlike previous research experiences where I was following the instructions of an older mentor, the Campbell Lab put the students in the driver's seat and encouraged us to follow our curiosity in answering unsolved questions. From day one, Malcolm was very upfront about not having the answers to most of our questions. Instead, he taught us how to figure them out for ourselves, which was quite a liberating experience." -Will DeLoache '09

"I am currently a fourth-year graduate student in the Biomedical Sciences Program at UCSF, working on Candida albicans commensalism [relationships between organisms where one organism benefits from the other without affecting it] in the gastrointestinal tract. I think the best part about working in Dr. Campbell's lab was the emphasis that he placed on learning. I learned that trying new things, being creative and making mistakes are all part of the scientific process, and as long as you are learning something, you are making progress." -Pallavi Penumetcha '11

"Working with Malcolm Campbell and Laurie Heyer encouraged me to challenge myself, to be fearless and independent in science, to value and learn from mistakes. As a Center for Interdisciplinary Studies student in computational biology, I worked on using DNA nano-structures to solve complex mathematical problems, known as NP-complete problems. Malcolm fostered an environment where his students felt safe to explore novel, sometimes crazy ideas, which made for a lab filled with passion and fun. He made sure we were equipped with the tools to answer questions ourselves, but was always available to meet and discuss science, classes and career choices.

"Malcolm has continued to be a constant source of encouragement, support and career advice. I am currently finishing my doctorate in biological and biomedical sciences at Harvard University. My research focuses on discovering and characterizing novel drugs to not only understand how cancer cells multiply, but to uniquely destroy cancer cells. The tools and passion that Malcolm fostered during my time at Davidson have been invaluable both personally and professionally during my Ph.D. program. I greatly admire his commitment to his students and to science education, and strive to be the type of mentor he has been to me." -Katie Richeson '11

More Info

We caught up with Campbell and Heyer on "handprint day" in the new Wall Center lab, and live-streamed it. Watch a recording of the video below.

Handprints. They all tell a story. Watch as @DavidsonBiology shares the story of old🖐️ prints & introduces the new …

— Davidson College (@DavidsonCollege) March 30, 2017

John Syme



  • April 20, 2017