2014 Laureate Prize Winner
2014 Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate in Science and Public Service
“I really fell in love with chemistry in high school. I loved the order of the periodic table . . . I loved that with just a few sets of rules you could make any chemical in the universe.”
A leader in the field of molecular biology, Shirley Tilghman came to Princeton in 1986. In 2001 she became the first woman president of Princeton. "I had a chance to do something that might really make a difference to Princeton, if I did it well," she recalled. "What I say to all our graduates and certainly to the young women who leave Princeton every June - I look them in the eye and I say aim high and be bold."
Born in Canada, Tilghman received an Honours B.Sc. in chemistry from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, in 1968. She taught secondary school children in Sierra Leone for two years, and then returned to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She did post-graduate work at the National Institutes of Health, and continued with her research at the Institute for Cancer Research in Philadelphia and as adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania. By the time she reached Princeton she was already renowned for her pioneering research into genetic imprinting, an area of gene studies that focuses on the regulation of genes during development with a special interest in how certain genes can be expressed in a parent-of-origin specific manner.
Tilghman is known not just for her scientific research; she is a national leader for young people entering the sciences, particularly women, and she has worked to promote efforts to make early careers of young scientists meaningful and productive. She has 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. In addition, 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.
During her tenure as president of Princeton, she oversaw the expansion of the undergraduate student body by eleven percent. She presided over the creation of a Center for African American Studies, the Lewis Center for the Arts, the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, and the Andlinger Center for Energy and Environment. She worked to increase the diversity of Princeton’s staff and students, widened access to the university through increasing the financial aid program, and fostered a multidisciplinary approach to teaching and research. Tilghman stepped down from her position as president of Princeton in June of 2013.
In 2002, Tilghman was one of five winners of the L'Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science. In the following year, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Developmental Biology, and in 2007, she was awarded the Genetics Society of America Medal for outstanding contributions to her field. In 2010 she received the Henry G. Friesen International Prize in Health Research. Tilghman is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the Royal Society of London. She serves as a trustee of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America, and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, and as a director of Google Inc.