Shirley M. Caldwell Tilghman, an exceptional teacher and a world-renowned scholar and leader in the field of molecular biology, served on the Princeton University faculty for 15 years before being named president.
A native of Canada, Tilghman received her Honors B.Sc. in chemistry from Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., in 1968, and after two years of secondary school teaching in Sierra Leone, West Africa, she obtained her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Temple University.
During postdoctoral studies at the National Institute of Health, she made a number of groundbreaking discoveries while participating in cloning the first mammalian gene, and then continued to make scientific breakthroughs as an independent investigator at the Institute for Cancer Research in Philadelphia and an adjunct associate professor of human genetics and biochemistry and biophysics at the University of Pennsylvania.
Tilghman came to Princeton in 1986 as the Howard A. Prior Professor of the Life Sciences. Two years later she also joined the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as an investigator and began serving as an adjunct professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. In 1998 she took on additional responsibilities as the founding director of Princeton's multi-disciplinary Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics.
A member of the National Research Council's committee that set the blueprint for the U.S. effort in the Human Genome Project, Tilghman was one of the founding members of the National Advisory Council of the Human Genome Project Initiative for the National Institutes of Health.
She is renowned not only for her pioneering research but also for her national leadership on behalf of women in science and for promoting efforts to make the early careers of young scientists as meaningful and productive as possible. She received national attention for a report on "Trends in the Careers of Life Scientists" that was issued in 1998 by a committee she chaired for the National Research Council, and she has helped launch the careers of many scholars as a member of the Pew Charitable Trusts Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Selection Committee and the Lucille P. Markey Charitable Trust Scholar Selection Committee.
From 1993 through 2000 Tilghman chaired Princeton's Council on Science and Technology, which encourages the teaching of science and technology to students outside the sciences, and in 1996 she received Princeton's President's Award for Distinguished Teaching. She initiated the Princeton Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowship, a program across all the science and engineering disciplines that brings postdoctoral students to Princeton each year to gain experience in both research and teaching.