Shirley M. Tilghman

Shirley M. Tilghman, PhD, is widely recognized as an exceptional teacher and a world-renowned scholar in the field of molecular biology. On May 5, 2001, Tilghman was elected Princeton University’s 19th president and assumed office on June 15, 2001. Tilghman received an honorary doctor of science degree in 2007.


Tilghman, who had been on the Princeton faculty for 15 years before being named president, is renowned for her pioneering research in mammalian developmental genetics, her national leadership on behalf of women in science, and her efforts to make the early careers of young scientists as meaningful and productive as possible.

She was a member of the National Research Council’s committee that set the blueprint for the U.S. effort in the Human Genome Project, as well as one of the founding members of the National Advisory Council of the Human Genome Project Initiative for the National Institutes of Health.

From 1993-2000, 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.

Leading Princeton University into a new era

As Princeton’s president, she oversees the nation’s fourth oldest institution of higher education. Under her leadership, Princeton has pursued a number of important initiatives, including the creation of a four-year residential college system, a major expansion of its commitment to the creative and performing arts, and the establishment of a new institute in the cutting-edge field of neuroscience.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, Tilghman was one of five winners of the 2002 L’OREAL-UNESCO Award for Women in Science, and the following year she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society for Developmental Biology.