Muriel Davisson, Professor

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Muriel Daviison, Ph.D.

Full circle

Professor Muriel Davisson's career brought her right back home.

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Dr. Muriel DavissonDr. Muriel Davisson understands that the genetic accidents that she studies are rare. “But, in Jackson Laboratory’s breeding population of a million mice a year, there are a lot of them,” she says. “They are like raw material. They are discovery. Every time you discover a new mutation, you don’t know where it will take you. You’re always learning.”

After graduating at the top of the Pemetic High School Class of 1959, Dr. Davisson became fascinated with genetics while an undergraduate student at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. After earning her doctorate at Penn State University in 1969, she settled into a long and distinguished research career, studying how abnormalities in chromosomes affect development. Dr. Davisson is best known within her field for developing a mouse model for Down syndrome, a condition linked to a chromosomal anomaly linked to mental retardation in more than 350,000 Americans. Over the past 20 years, her mouse model has proven so essential to understanding the disorder that in 2002 the National Down Syndrome Society named her “Researcher of the Year.”

Dr. Davisson has also been instrumental in the success of The Jackson Laboratory’s Mouse Mutant Resource program, which maintains the world’s largest collection of laboratory mice with naturally occurring, spontaneous mutations. Over the past 50 years, this unique repository has helped researchers around the world to better understand the genetic basis of diabetes, heart disease, neurological disorders and other human diseases.

An avid sailor and a student of local history, Dr. Davisson has a unique stress reduction regimen. “I like getting out in the woods with a chainsaw, cutting up fallen trees,” she says. “With a saw that’s not too heavy, I can go all day.”

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