DAVIDSON – Malcolm Campbell recalls congratulating David Botstein for winning the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences and feeling flabbergasted after learning he’d get a share of Botstein’s $3 million winnings.

“It was one of the few times in life I’ve been speechless,” said Campbell, a biology professor at Davidson College. 

Botstein, a genetics professor at Princeton University, donated $100,000 to Campbell, as well as faculty at three other institutions.

“With these awards, I recognize the successes of these four institutions in the development and delivery of educational programs that are furthering the field of biological research by training the next generation of breakthrough scientists,” Botstein said.

The programs emphasize student involvement with real-life research projects in biology, rather than teaching through repetitive exercises, he said.

He praised Campbell, director of Davidson’s James G. Martin Genomics Program, for being a leader in this approach.

“Malcolm did it first, and continues to do it more effectively than anyone,” Botstein said. “It’s expensive and requires a lot of dedication on part of the faculty. It’s also counter to the current trend, which is to shove everything onto the Internet and let students sit there and be entertained. Malcolm gets it, which is why I wanted to make an example of him and Davidson.”

The award will allow Campbell to publish an electronic textbook titled “Integrating Concepts In Biology,” that he co-authored two years ago with faculty colleagues Chris Paradise and Laurie Heyer.

The book leads students to understand biological concepts through case studies.

“The book is aimed at putting the science back into introductory biology,” Campbell said. “Our approach lets students practice being scientists rather than memorizers.”

Campbell directs his undergraduate students in project-based labs that originate in his laboratory.

First-year students in the introductory biology course conduct original research by characterizing short genetic sequences for use in synthetic biology.

Motivated students may choose to take three advanced core courses in “Genomics,” “Laboratory Methods in Genomics” and “Bioinformatics” or conduct research in Campbell’s lab.