School of Medicine Basic Sciences Staff Spotlight: Karen Davis

The School of Medicine Basic Sciences consists of a remarkable community that is dedicated to advancing the study of human biology, health, and disease. In addition to the award-winning faculty and students who are at the forefront of our cutting-edge research, a large part of our school’s success can be attributed to our staff.

Please join us in recognizing and appreciating our staff members and the hard work they do to allow our researchers to accomplish exceptional exploration into basic biomedical science.

We sat down with Karen Davis, who told us a little about herself.


Karen Davis competing a Spartan Race.
Karen Davis competing a Spartan Race.

What do you do for the School of Medicine Basic Sciences? 

I’m the program coordinator for the Center for Structural Biology. What I do is…endless! I’m the CSB’s admin, communications officer, webmaster, office manager, and event organizer, as well as the Molecular Biophysics Training Program coordinator and the resident entertainer.

How long have you been working for Basic Sciences?

I started at Vanderbilt in the CSB in November 2012.

Why do you like working for Basic Sciences?

I like the people I work with and the feeling of being a part of something bigger than myself.

 What is a project that you are looking forward to in the future? 

We just held our CSB Symposium on March 28. It was a lot of work to organize and coordinate, but it was fulfilling to see it all come together. Not sure when our next big event will be, but I think I should start work on it now!

What is your favorite memory or project you completed during your time in Basic Sciences so far?

I’ll always remember the first symposium I worked in 2014, the “Biomolecular Structure, Dynamics and Function: Protein Membranes Symposium.” It was organized by Chuck Sanders and Jens Meiler. We had a dance party one night during the event. I might have done the MC Hammer dance. And no, you can’t touch this!

Can you name a colleague who has had a positive impact on your work?

Sheila Elder hired me way back when, and I remember her phone call inviting me to interview. She told me that I was at the top of her list because she thought I was talented, skillful, and could grow into other positions. She hadn’t even met me yet. Today, she’s still supportive and my biggest cheerleader. I hope I can support and encourage others the same way she has encouraged me.

What is a professional or personal achievement that you are most proud of?

It’s been a few years, but I’ll always remember being cast as Mammy Yokum in my high school’s production of Lil’ Abner. It was the first time that people other than my friends saw me come out of my shell. I got a standing ovation! More recently, I completed a Spartan Race. However, that’s been a few years now too. Where has the time gone?

What is a fun fact about you?

I’m a huge soccer fan! I didn’t get to play as a child because soccer wasn’t offered as a sport where I grew up in rural Alabama. I started playing as an adult after the 1999 Women’s World Cup (I think I just dated myself!). I finally retired a few years ago, but I didn’t quite hang up my boots. I started coaching at Nashville Youth Soccer Association in 2006 and I currently coach two co-ed NYSA recreational soccer teams. What can I say? I love being called coach!

I’m also a season ticket holder of Nashville Soccer Club. I’ve been a season ticket holder since it was announced that Nashville was getting a major league soccer team!

What is your favorite quote?

I always tell my players, “You can’t score if you don’t shoot!” I try to remember that when I’m afraid to step out of my comfort zone or try something new.