Belinda Sly

Professor of Biology; Co-Advisor Pre-Health Committee

“I like to think that conversations about science in my office are not that much different than they are in the classroom or laboratory.”

There’s something fishy going on in Belinda Sly’s laboratory.

One of Sly’s current projects is studying the genetics of fish color. “More specifically, we are trying to identify the molecular changes that make one Betta fish blue, and another red,” she said.

She has Transylvania students helping with her research, and she appreciates the well-rounded background they bring to her lab.

“I believe that the liberal arts tradition makes science students stronger,” she said. “They often bring insights from other courses that help us understand the context of the science we are studying.”

She used one of the students working with her as an example. “Paul Brown ’13 is a double major in fine arts and biology,” Sly said. “It has been interesting how helpful his art training has been in the lab—everything from taking photos to making wax molds for sectioning fish embryos.”

When it comes to studying biology, Transylvania students have advantages. “We have lots of great equipment here for doing molecular genetics and developmental biology, including thermocyclers for amplifying DNA; a DNA sequencer; a fluorescent microscope; and a digital camera system for photographing embryos.”

With these sophisticated research tools available, it’s easier to engage the students and develop the critical thinking they will need in their careers. Sly values maintaining relationships with her students even after they leave her classroom.

For her, teaching is most satisfying “when the students and I are working together to make connections or discuss things at a deeper level than can be identified in a textbook or lecture.”

Academic History

Ph.D., Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, Indiana University, 2004
B.S., Zoology, Oregon State University, 1996

Courses Taught at Transy

Integrated Concepts in Biology: Molecules and Cells
Developmental Biology
Molecular Genetics
Tropical Ecology
Senior Seminar

Areas of Research

Development and evolution of pigmentation in animals
Analysis of direct-to-consumer genetic testing

Recent Publications

Carey, AN, Lyvers, BH, Ferrill, RN, Johnson, RM, Dumaine, AM, and Sly, BJ. “Development of Betta splendens embryos and larvae reveals variation in pigmentati on patterns” Zygote. 2015

Wagner, JD, Campbell, AM, Sly, BJ, Paradise, CJ. “An active textbook converts ‘Vision and Tweak’ to Vision and Change. Course Source. June 3, 2015

Professional Memberships

Society for Developmental Biology


Bingham Award for Excellence in Teaching