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Sue Kilham Receives Phycological Society of America Career Achievement Award

June 26, 2017

Drexel University Professor Susan Kilham, PhD

Sue Kilham, PhD, professor in the Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science, received the Phycological Society of America’s Award of Excellence — a career achievement award that honors scientists who have had a major impact on the field of phycology, and who have a record of sustained scholarly activity, including teaching and service.

Kilham began her career researching deep-sea clams but quickly moved to the other hard-shelled creatures that have been the focus of most of her work: diatoms. For more than 45 years, Kilham has been a leading figure and role model for women in phycology and ecology, and has mentored numerous female scientists.

Her groundbreaking research on the relationship of species’ coexistence to resource utilization led to fundamental advances in community theory. It is particularly noteworthy that she and her co-workers realized that testing resource theory using algae would be significant in terms of the applicability of principles to ecosystems beyond the watery ones. Given the emphasis on terrestrial plants and animals in ecology generally, Kilham's use of algae as test organisms for ecological theory was as prescient as it was brilliant.

Kilham has authored nearly 100 publications, and has published in high-profile journals and books such as Ecology, Science, Nature, Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, and the Journal of Phycology, among others. She has served on approximately 45 committees for master’s degree students, 20 PhD committees as major adviser at the University of Michigan and Drexel University, and over 60 PhD committees as a member at Drexel and elsewhere. She has also mentored 26 undergraduate students at Drexel.

Her capacity for work and eagerness to serve is reflected in the many administrative committees and positions she has held, including search committees, faculty senate posts, and Department Chair. Amidst all this, she has taught scores of courses, core and elective, in ecology, evolution and aquatic science. Kilham is an indispensible faculty member and scholar-researcher who has been the foundation of scientific excellence at all institutions where she has worked.