Beth Dumont, Ph.D., a researcher focused on the cellular mechanisms that govern DNA inheritance, has joined The Jackson Laboratory faculty as an assistant professor.
“My group will focus on understanding the very processes that give rise to genetic variation, including mutations that cause disease, with a particular emphasis on how these processes differ between individuals,” says Dumont. “My goal is to understand how DNA is altered in the course of inheritance from parent to child. Where do new mutations occur in the genome? How does the distribution and number of new variants across the genome differ among individuals? What genetic factors control variation in the mutation rate and recombination rate among individuals?”
These processes are intriguing, Dumont says, because they are important to both genetics and evolutionary biology. “On the scale of generations, mutation and recombination provide the raw source of all of phenotypic (trait) variation observed among individuals, including variants that contribute to both adaptive evolution and disease,” she says. “Over long evolutionary time scales, these processes provide the fuel for evolution, accounting for the diversity of organismal form and function that we see in the natural world.”
As a rising sophomore at Cornell University, Dumont enrolled in JAX’s annual Summer Student Program, which immerses high school and college students in genetics research under the mentorship of JAX professors. The experience profoundly influenced her life. Now, 14 years later, after having earned her Ph.D. in genetics and held two postdoctoral research positions, Dumont is coming back to Bar Harbor where will begin setting up her research lab in October.
Dumont says, “JAX is home to considerable expertise and world-renowned scientific leaders in the research areas that bridge my own interests – genomics and reproductive biology. At the same time, I could see clear opportunities for my research group to make unique contributions.” Dumont says she was also drawn to the “collegial and collaborative work environment” and outstanding scientific resources at JAX. “And as a native Mainer, I was of course also eager to return to my home state.”
Dumont is currently an independent postdoctoral research scholar with the Initiative for Biological Complexity at North Carolina State University, where she studies how the mechanisms of inheritance vary between species. Previously she was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington, where she used large genome sequence datasets to investigate the role of gene conversion on the evolution of duplicated sequences in the human genome.
She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin in 2010 for her work on the evolution and genetic basis of recombination rate variation in mammals. She received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and biology from Cornell in 2005.