Big Ideas

Shirley Tilghman is the nineteenth president of Princeton University, and is the first woman to hold the position. Tilghman served on the Princeton faculty for fifteen years before being named President. A native of Canada, Tilghman was educated at Queen's University and Temple University. She is a renowned molecular biologist, known particularly for her pioneering research in mammalian developmental genetics. She served as a member of the National Research Council's committee that set the blueprint for the U.S. effort in the Human Genome Project and was one of the founding members of the National Advisory Council of the Human Genome Project Initiative for the National Institutes of Health.

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.  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 chairs the Association of American Universities and serves as a trustee of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, and as a director of Google Inc.

  • Transcript


I’m inspired, I think, by individuals who strive for excellence. I think that’s how we make progress in the world is by individuals who are capable of expressing their creativity and then striving to achieve it – striving at a high level of excellence. I’m inspired by people who do dream – who have big ideas, and who are undeterred by all the obstacles that are in their path. I’m inspired by big ideas, by people who are able to see beyond the small details of getting through the day to be able to see a big idea, and then to figure out how to execute a big idea. Recorded on: 8/7/07