July 2012

Meet Nick Davidson

Photo of Nicholas O. Davidson in Bilbao, Spain 
Davidson visits the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, a museum of modern and contemporary art, in Spain in April.

You have been the division director of gastroenterology at Washington University in St. Louis since 1998 and have had professorships in medicine, pharmacology and molecular biology, and developmental biology. Can you tell us how all these different roles you have had connect to one another?
I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in a range of research activities, including basic bench science, but also to develop my interests in the genetics of hereditary and familial gastrointestinal cancers. With the emergence of new sequencing technologies and the explosion of interest in the microbiome in human disease, including GI diseases, my various roles and obligations in clinical and basic science departments frequently intersect over the course of each day.

How have you managed to juggle running your lab and treating your patients?
I am very fortunate to have wonderful colleagues and trainees whose interests and motivations are entirely responsible for our successes. We have tried very hard to maintain a philosophy of advancing both the science and practice of medicine in digestive and liver disease, engaging our clinical faculty as well as the scientists who conduct more basic research.

What direction do you see the field of gastroenterology going in the next five to 10 years?
In terms of academic gastroenterology, the science will continue to reflect advances in genetics and genomics, fueled by both technical sequencing developments and computational/bioinformatics methodology. In addition, the field of metagenomics and the role of the microbiome and virome in human disease will continue to expand and assume increasing significance.

Similarly, what advancements in your field do you hope to see in your lifetime?
I hope to witness greater understanding of an integrated view of lipid homeostasis in signaling, inflammation and carcinogenesis.

What kind of advice would you give to aspiring scientists and doctors?
The most important factors for me personally have been the availability and accessibility of mentors. Find a mentor and ask a lot of questions. Start with thinking through the attributes of a role model, someone whose career and daily activities seem interesting, and then try to engage him or her in understanding the challenges and obstacles they faced and how they navigated a path to their current position.

When not in the lab or at the hospital, how do you spend your free time?
I spend time exercising and have a regular workout regimen several times a week. In addition, I am a huge fan of professional football … er, soccer … and spend time watching English Premier League and Champions League games with an international group of colleagues and friends.

What is a fact about you that might surprise your peers or colleagues?
As a medical resident in England, I wrote, directed and played the leading role in a musical based on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Last question, for the soccer fans: Liverpool or Everton?


Mary L. Chang (mchang@asbmb.org) is managing editor of the Journal of Lipid Research and coordinating journal manager of the journal Molecular & Cellular Proteomics.


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