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Richard Gilder Graduate School Holds First Ph.D. Defense

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Sebastian Kvist

Sebastian Kvist defends his dissertation on blood-feeding leeches. © AMNH/C. Chesek


In the first Ph.D. defense held by the Richard Gilder Graduate School, Sebastian Kvist today successfully defended his dissertation about blood-feeding leeches, paving the way for him to receive his doctoral degree from the Museum.

Kvist, who is from Helsingborg, Sweden, enrolled at the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School in 2008 as part of its inaugural class. Advised by Professor and Curator Mark Siddall,he studied leeches as a member of the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology. Last November, Kvist and Siddall co-authored a paper in the online journal PLoS ONE that used next-generation DNA sequencing to explore a unique symbiotic partnership between leeches and bacteria that live inside them. Along with Alejandro Oceguera-Figueroa of the City University of New York, Kvist also described a new species of North American leech, Placobdella kwetlumye, during his time as an RGGS graduate student.

The American Museum of Natural History is the only museum in the Western Hemisphere with the authority to award its own Ph.D. degree. The Richard Gilder Graduate School’s first doctoral program, which focuses on comparative biology and covers the origins, history, and range of life on Earth, attracts candidates from throughout the U.S. and from all over the world, including Brazil, Colombia, France, and England.

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