Helen Donis-Keller, Ph.D
Professor of Biology and Art


Dr. Helen Donis-Keller combines her interests in art and science, believing that each field informs the other in significant ways. "As a scientist and artist I investigate the complex relationship between genotype and phenotype," says Dr. Donis-Keller. "The genetic potential (genotype) is modified by the environment to produce the observable self (phenotype)." As a scientist she has been involved in mapping the human genome and identifying genes and mutations which give rise to heritable disorders such as cystic fibrosis, some forms of thyroid and breast cancer, and unipolar depression. As an artist she uses visual and sonic metaphors for genetic concepts to make them more accessible and increase her understanding of them.

She has held leadership positions in the biotechnology industry and in academic science. She was Assistant Research Director of Molecular Biology at Biogen, Inc., and later the Director of the Human Genetics Department at Collaborative Research, Inc. where she led the research group that developed the first genetic linkage map of the human genome during the 1980s.

More recently she was Professor of Surgery and Director of the Division of Human Molecular Genetics with joint appointments as Professor of Genetics and Professor of Genetics in Psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. She has also maintained an interest in the ethical implications of genetic research, serving on an Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Assessing Genetic Risks. She also founded a course at Washington University on Ethics and Research Science. Dr. Donis-Keller has authored more than 150 publications in science.

She received a B.Sc. in Natural Science and an Honours B.Sc. in Biology from Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada, a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Harvard University, in Cambridge. MA, and an MFA in Studio Art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Tufts University in Medford, MA. She was also awarded a Doctor of Science Degree (Honoris Causa) from Lakehead University.
Back to Faculty Home