Shirley M. Tilghman

President of the University, Emeritus.
Professor of Molecular Biology and Public Affairs.
Molecular Biology
Office Phone
240 Carl Icahn Laboratory

Shirley M. Tilghman is President Emerita and Professor Emerita of Molecular Biology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. An exceptional teacher and a world-renowned scholar and leader in the field of molecular biology, she served on the Princeton faculty for 15 years before being named president in 2001.

Tilghman, a native of Canada, received her Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, in 1968. After two years of secondary school teaching in Sierra Leone, West Africa, she obtained her doctoral degree in biochemistry from Temple University in Philadelphia.

During postdoctoral studies at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 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 as 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. In 1998, she took on additional responsibilities as the founding director of Princeton’s multidisciplinary 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 also was one of the founding members of the National Advisory Council of the Human Genome Project for the NIH.

She is renowned not only for her pioneering research, but 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.

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.

Tilghman is an Officer of the Order of Canada, the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Developmental Biology, the Genetics Society of America Medal, the L’Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science, and the George W. Beadle Award from the Genetics Society of America. She is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Royal Society of London. She serves as a trustee of Amherst College, the Institute for Advanced Study, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Simons Foundation. She is a director of The Broad Institute of MIT and the Hypothesis Fund, and a Fellow of the Corporation of Harvard College, and is an external science advisor for the Science Philanthropy Alliance.

Selected Publications

Tilghman, SM, Alberts B, Colon-Ramos, D, Dzirasa K, Kimble J, Varmus, H, Concrete Steps to diversify the scientific workforce. Science. 2021; 372(6538):133-135. PubMed 

Greider CW, Sheltzer JM, Cantalupo NC, Copeland WB, Dasgupta N, Hopkins N, et al. Increasing gender diversity in the STEM research workforce. Science. 2019 ;366(6466):692-695. PubMed 

Greider C, Hopkins N, Steitz J, Amon A, Asai D, Barres B, et al. Not Just Salk. Science. 2017 ;357(6356):1105-1106. PubMed

Tilghman SM. Profile of Bruce M. Alberts, 2016 Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science Awardee. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 ;114(7):1439-1441. PubMed

Tilghman SM. Twists and turns: a scientific journey. Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2014 ;30:1-21. PubMed