Laura Watts

Assistant Professor of Biology
Science 205
  • BS, BSBA, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor; PhD, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Doctoral Thesis:

Characterization of a Novel Signaling Motif in the CD3 Epsilon Subunit of the T Cell Receptor

Research Interests:

Identification of chemotherapeutic drug targets in leukemia. Impact of coal ash contaminants on soil microbes.

Personal Interests:
Running, hiking, traveling, reading, and cooking



Dr. Watts is from Texas, and she moved to Winston-Salem with her husband so he could complete his residency at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Shortly after moving here, she became an adjunct professor for a semester at Salem and she immediately felt at home. She appreciates the bright and energetic students and also the faculty who are not only enthusiastic about their role in education, but are eager to assist the students in pursuing their individual goals.

She sees several benefits to choosing a women’s college. First, given that single-gender institutions tend to be smaller, the more intimate atmosphere and smaller classroom sizes allow the students to interact with their instructors regularly on a one-on-one basis. Beyond the individualized learning, she feels that women’s colleges foster the attitude and opportunity for women to pursue careers in fields that have traditionally been dominated by men. On an all women’s campus, the students are encouraged to take on leadership positions within the student body that will prepare them for any leadership role they may later pursue in life.

The focus of Dr. Watts’s research is to elucidate the role of a protein known as fatty acid synthase (FASN) in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). FASN has been demonstrated to be defective in a wide variety of cancers, including prostate, breast, and lung cancer. Furthermore, it has been shown to be a viable drug target in these tumor types, indicating that drugs that eliminate FASN activity in cancer cells may one day be utilized in the clinic to treat cancer patients. Her research focuses on determining if FASN may also be a viable drug target for patients suffering with AML.

Women choosing a major within the Biology Department at Salem College will not only receive excellent classroom training in the field of science, but hands-on experience through labs and internships will also be made available. Beyond this, the opportunity to take part in research within the department will provide them with invaluable experience to pursue a career in any discipline involving science, medicine, or education.

Dr. Watts's advice to a student considering a career in science would be to first take a basic science course to determine what type of information appeals to them. If this proves to be the case, students should consider what type of career they might be interested in, such as basic research scientist, medical doctor, veterinarian, scientific writer, educator, etc. Once they find a discipline they enjoy, she will assist them in finding opportunities to gain some “real world” experience in those fields, whether it be through internships, shadowing, or research programs.

Dr. Watts married Jonathan Watts while attending the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center of Dallas and they have a daughter together. When she is not working she enjoys running, hiking, traveling, reading, and cooking.

Favorite Book:
Dr. Watts highly recommends The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.