Department News

Heideman Leads Department through Big Changes

Department Chair Dr. Paul HeidemanPaul Heideman became Chair of the Biology Department in 2004 for a planned five-year term, after the retirement of long-time Chair Larry Wiseman. During these three years, he’s been busy as the Biology Department prepares for most faculty to move to the new Integrated Science Center (see related story ), for changes in faculty due to retirements and new hires, and for continued teaching and research in one of the largest undergraduate majors at the College of William and Mary. Two big changes in these years have been growth of the Neuroscience Program under the direction of faculty member John Griffin, hired in 2000 to lead that new program, and with the construction of the Keck Environmental Field Lab near lake Matoaka.

A Word from the Chair – Dr. Paul Heideman

Being Department Chair is still interesting and rewarding. It often feels like there's far too much to do, but it also means I hear more than anyone else about inspiring and exciting things being done by faculty and students. I've enjoyed helping to administer some student research programs funded recently by alumni who remember their research experiences fondly (or wish they had had more opportunities!). The (literally) largest thing I've been involved with has been our new building. It's been tremendous fun, the past few weeks, to be walking through the 'Integrated Science Center' building part 1 (of the three parts needed eventually for all of Biology), and being able to trace specific power lines, drains, and many other things I've been seeing only on plans for so long! 

Peromyscus leucopusIn research, I've teamed up with Dr. Julian Pittman (WM '98) who is here as a visiting assistant professor helping to run my lab and teach my physiology course. We still work on natural genetic variation in neurons and hormones. Most recently, my students have found a surprisingly large amount of variation and heritability for numbers of neurons controlling fertility. The variation in fertility is somehow connected to genetic variation that causes large differences in food intake (papers with W&M students and alumni in 2005, 2006, & 2007). We're in the process of trying to discover the hormones and neurons that cause this natural variation in food intake, as well as the link to fertility. We hope this might end up being highly relevant to normal and natural variation in food intake and fertility in humans. -- Paul