MDI native Muriel Davisson-Fahey to receive Mount Holyoke College Alumna Achievement Award

Bar Harbor, Maine—Jackson Laboratory Professor Emeritus Muriel Davisson-Fahey, Ph.D., will be honored with an Alumna Achievement Award from her alma mater, Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., when she attends her 50th reunion there on May 18.

Davisson-Fahey’s Mount Holyoke classmates nominated her for the award in recognition of her professional accomplishments and contributions. The annual award is presented to an alumna whose work “exemplifies the ideals of a liberal arts education, that demonstrates professional distinction, sustained commitment, and/or creativity, and that reflects the visions and pioneering spirit of [Mount Holyoke founder] Mary Lyon."

In learning of the upcoming award, Davisson-Fahey said, “I am deeply honored. Mount Holyoke changed my life by broadening my horizons and giving me a four-year full tuition scholarship that enabled a young woman from a poor family in Maine to go to college.”

Most of Davisson-Fahey's long career in genetics research at The Jackson Laboratory involved finding spontaneous mutations in mice and genetically mapping and characterizing them, for use as models in the scientific study of a wide range of human diseases.

She is best known in the scientific community for developing a mouse model for Down syndrome, a condition related to a chromosomal anomaly in more than 350,000 Americans. Her Ts65Dn mouse is now the most widely used model in Down syndrome research, winning her recognition from the National Down Syndrome Society.

“I’m grateful to The Jackson Laboratory for giving me the opportunity to do the science I love,” Davisson says, “studying mouse models of human diseases.”

Davisson-Fahey was born in the town of McKinley (now Bass Harbor), Maine, on Mount Desert Island (MDI), grew up in Bernard and attended Pemetic High School in Southwest Harbor. She won a full scholarship to Mount Holyoke College in 1959, starting out as a German language and literature major but changing to zoology and genetics after “discovering” genetics.

After earning her Ph.D. at Penn State University in 1969 studying trout genetics, Davisson-Fahey moved back to MDI and started her four-decade career at The Jackson Laboratory, retiring in 2012. She lives in Tremont and still consults with her Jackson colleagues. She is secretary of the Tremont Historical Society and spends as much time as possible outdoors, working in her woodlot, gardening and sailing.

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and a new genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Conn. It employs a total staff of more than 1,450. Its mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health.