Commencement

2015 Richard Gilder Graduate School Graduates

On Monday, October 5, 2015, the Museum conferred four Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Comparative Biology. The four graduates entered the program in 2010 and 2011, completing their degrees, on average, in a little over four years. Collectively, their research endeavored to better understand the evolution of ants, birds, lizards, and wasps. Commenting in a recent New York Times article about the AMNH degree, Ellen V. Futter, the Museum’s president said, “Many of the most important issues of the day have science as a foundation. There’s a real need for a public understanding of these issues and, as a result, a stronger need for more scientists.”

At the same ceremony, the Richard Gilder Graduate School awarded 14 Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degrees, with a specialization in Earth Science, to the Museum's Kathryn W. Davis Graduate Teaching Fellows. Building on a successful pilot program for the innovative teaching of grades 7-12 educators, in 2015, the New York State Board of Regents authorized that the Richard Gilder Graduate School confer the Museum’s MAT degrees.

© AMNH/R. Mickens

© AMNH/R. Mickens


An Honorary Doctorate of Science degree was conferred as well upon preeminent paleontologist, geologist and evolutionary biologist Dr. Mee-mann Chang, Research Professor, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Professor, Peking University.

Read more about the Ph.D. graduates below—and congratulations to all!

The American Museum of Natural History is the first Ph.D. granting museum in the Western Hemisphere. The Museum expresses its utmost appreciation to Richard Gilder, a steadfast and most generous benefactor and friend whose visionary philanthropy enabled the Museum to establish the Gilder Graduate School.

Additional support for the Richard Gilder Graduate School has been generously provided by the Hess Foundation, Inc.; an anonymous Museum Trustee; the City of New York; Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., Gerstner Family Foundation; and the Annette Kade Charitable Trust.

Read more about the ceremony and see more photos here
Learn more about the backgrounds and research of the four Ph.D. graduates here

The 2015 Ph.D. graduates:

2015 PhD Graduates

Phillip Barden: To uncover the secret lives of ancient ants, Phil Barden undertook fieldwork in Malaysia and India, studied collections in Britain and France, and analyzed part of the world’s most extraordinary collection of fossils in amber, housed at the American Museum of Natural History. In his research, Phil harnessed an array of technologies to reveal the information entombed in 100 million year old amber ants, ranging from this Museum’s refrigerator-sized scanning electron microscope and CT scanner to a miles-wide government synchrotron in Illinois, as well as the latest genetic sequencing methods for analyzing modern ant groups. Phil discovered new fossil species with adaptations never before seen in any ant, and uncovered evidence bearing on the earliest origins of sociality in ants. Phil’s thesis was entitled “Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) through space, time, and sociality: a history from amber.” His dissertation advisor was Dr. David Grimaldi and his co-advisor was Dr. James Carpenter. Upon graduating, Phil accepted the prestigious NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biology, for which he is now based at both Rutgers University and the AMNH.

Carly Melissa Tribull: A renaissance scholar, Carly melded art with biology, and education with research, creating an innovative and inspiring series of comics for the Museum’s Ology website for children, focused on wasp biology and the joys of being an entomologist. To study the genetics and anatomy of two groups of parasitic wasps, she collected in India, New Zealand, Australia, and across the western U.S., sampling at the Museum’s research station in Arizona and driving the entire Pacific Coast from San Diego to Seattle, and analyzing museum collections on 4 continents. Carly identified and named three new species and transformed our understanding of the previously enigmatic interrelationships and biology of these wasps that form such an important part of ecosystems and serve as biological controls on many agricultural pests. Her thesis title was “Molecular and morphometric phylogenetics of Dryinidae and Bethylidae (Hymenoptera: Chrysidoidea).” Carly’s dissertation advisor was Dr. James Carpenter and co-advisor was Dr. David Grimaldi. A few weeks before the commencement ceremony, Carly relocated to Texas where she is now Visiting Assistant Professor in the Biology department at Sam Houston State University.

● Maria Eugenia Leone Gold: Eugenia has pursued her lifelong passion for dinosaurs since college—at the Gilder Graduate School she joined the Museum’s famous Gobi Desert expeditions to Mongolia, and analyzed complex 3-dimensional CAT scan images of the brains of birds and their extinct dinosaurian relatives, to reconstruct the pathways of brain transformation as ground-dwelling dinosaurs transformed to their winged cousins that we marvel at daily. Eugenia literally harnessed the wind to accomplish her research, borrowing an enormous wind tunnel that was driven from Montana to NY, where she reassembled the pieces to undertake her pioneering studies probing the origins of bird flight. Through novel application of the advanced medical technology known as PET scanning, Eugenia determined, for the first time, the precise parts of the brain that are activated when birds fly. Her thesis title was “New insights on the evolution of flight in dinosaurs using novel CT and PET technology,” and her dissertation advisor was Dr. Mark Norell. Upon graduating, Eugenia started a position as Instructor of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University Medical School.

André Luiz Gomes de Carvalho: This energetic scholar arrived in New York fresh from earning a master’s degree in Brazil, while simultaneously making an extraordinary contribution by teaching biology to schoolchildren in the poorest neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro. Intrepid explorer and resident night owl, Andre worked tirelessly in studying the genetics and anatomy of the more than 1,000 lizard specimens he analyzed in his dissertation, many collected during his remarkable 6-month expeditionary odyssey that spanned thousands of miles during his fieldwork across Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Argentina. Supported by a prestigious Brazilian Science Foundation fellowship, Andre named new species and genera, while creating a definitive study of the evolutionary relationships of the most common and widespread lizards in the world’s highest diversity biota, in his thesis entitled “Systematic revision of the lizards of the subfamily Tropidurinae (Tropiduridae) with special reference to Tropidurus Wied, 1825.” His dissertation advisor was Dr. Darrell Frost. In late fall 2015, Andre begins a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.

2014 Graduation

2014 Richard Gilder Graduate School Graduates

On Monday, October 27, 2014, the Museum conferred four Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Comparative Biology. The four graduates entered the program in 2009 and 2010, completing their degrees in an average of about four years. Collectively, their research endeavored to better understand the evolution of sea anemones, parasitic wasps and apid bees, tropical narrow-mouthed frogs, and flatfishes, such flounders, soles, and halibut.

At the same ceremony, the Museum, in partnership with the New York State Board of Regents, also awarded 16 Masters of Arts in Teaching degrees to the Museum's Kathryn W. Davis Graduate Teaching Fellows. Honorary Doctorate of Science degrees were conferred as well upon Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of IBM and Vice Chairman of the American Museum of Natural History, and Dr. Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University and Honorary Trustee, American Museum of Natural History.

Read more about the Ph.D. graduates below—and congratulations to all!

The American Museum of Natural History is the first Ph.D. granting museum in the Western Hemisphere. The Museum expresses its utmost appreciation to Richard Gilder, a steadfast and most generous benefactor and friend whose visionary philanthropy enabled the Museum to establish the Gilder Graduate School.

Additional support for the Richard Gilder Graduate School has been generously provided by the Hess Foundation, Inc.; an anonymous Museum Trustee; the City of New York; Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., Gerstner Family Foundation; and the Annette Kade Charitable Trust.

The 2014 Gilder School Graduates:

•             Alejandro Grajales – Alejandro’s thesis research was a broad evolutionary study of beautiful and delicate sea anemones—these superficially resemble their namesake plants, but instead are filter-feeding marine animals that range from tropical reefs to Antarctic ice shelves. His doctoral dissertation involved 10 expeditions across the globe, and spanned innovative CAT scan anatomical studies to genomics, to foster use of one genus of anemones as a model system for evolutionary research, similar to how laboratory mice and fruit flies are used in medicine and genetics. Alejandro's AMNH dissertation committee members were Drs. Estefania Rodriguez (primary advisor), Ward Wheeler, and Robert DeSalle, and, from Ohio State University, Dr. Marymegan Daly. His thesis was titled "MORPHOLOGICAL AND MOLECULAR EVOLUTION OF SEA ANEMONES AS REVEALED BY AN EMERGING MODEL ORGANISM: AIPTASIA (CNIDARIA: ACTINIARIA: AIPTASIIDAE)”.  Alejandro was born and raised in Colombia, where he earned his B.Sc. and M.Sc. degree, both at Universidad de Los Andes. Upon earning the Ph.D., he was appointed as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the AMNH Sackler Institute of Comparative Genomics.

•             Ansel Payne – On 9 expeditions, including a 2 month, 16 thousand mile long, marathon road rally across the western U.S., Ansel collected bees and wasps for his integrative studies of the evolution of complex behaviors. Ansel’s research enhanced understanding of the development of predatory behavior within parasitic wasps, origins of “food stealing” in apid bees (the honeybees, bumblebees and relatives), evolution of prey choice in solitary predatory wasps, and innovations in nesting behavior within thread-waisted wasps. Ansel's dissertation committee members were AMNH Drs. James Carpenter (primary advisor), Jerome Rozen and David Grimaldi. His dissertation was entitled “PHYLOGENETIC STUDIES OF APOID WASPS (HYMENOPTERA: APOIDEA) WITH INSIGHTS INTO THE EVOLUTION OF COMPLEX BEHAVIORS”. Ansel earned his bachelor’s degree in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, and his Masters in Biology at Tufts University. Upon completing the Ph.D., Ansel was hired as a Program Assistant at the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia.

•             Pedro Luiz Vieira del Peloso – Through extensive laboratory and field research, Pedro studied narrow-mouthed frogs, a tropical group of more than 500 species that represent almost 10% of global frog diversity. Pedro’s thesis yielded advances in evolutionary tree reconstruction methods, the most comprehensive study of narrow-mouthed frog relationships, and tests of geographic distributions and evolution of reproduction, particularly determining that direct development from eggs, without a tadpole stage, evolved only once in this massive group. Pedro's dissertation committee members were AMNH Drs. Darrel Frost (primary advisor), Ward Wheeler, and Joel Cracraft. His dissertation was entitled "PHYLOGENY, SYSTEMATIC REVIEW, AND EVOLUTION OF NARROW-MOUTHED FROGS (ANURA, MICROHYLIDAE)”. Pedro was born and raised in Brazil where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences at Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo and his M.Sc. in Zoology at Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi / Universidade Federal do Pará. As a Richard Gilder School student, Pedro was a Fulbright and CAPES Scholar. Upon earning the Ph.D., he became a “Science without Borders” Postdoctoral Fellow in Brazil.

•             Dawn M. Roje – Dawn’s dissertation work integrated anatomical and genetic data to determine the relationships of a bizarre and fascinating group—the “flatfishes”—including some of our favorite seafoods, like flounders, soles, and halibut. Flatfish are asymmetrical and metamorphose, with both eyes migrating to one side of the body as they grow. Dawn’s research generated novel insights into understanding how particular kinds of genetic changes affect reconstruction of flatfish evolutionary trees, established that asymmetry evolved only once in this group, and determined that data from larvae undergoing metamorphosis provide important information for establishing their nearest relatives as well as refining details of the flatfish family tree. Dawn's dissertation committee members were AMNH Drs. John Sparks (primary advisor), Melanie Stiassny, and Robert DeSalle. Her dissertation was entitled “MOLECULES, MORPHOLOGY AND MONOPHYLY: RESOLVING FLATFISH (PLEURONECTIFORMES) PHYLOGENY AND INVESTIGATING WHY IT HAS BEEN SO DIFFICULT TO DO”.  Dawn earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biology at UCLA and her Master’s degree in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington (in Seattle). After completing the Ph.D., Dawn became a Science Teacher at the Spence School in New York City.

2013 Richard Gilder Graduate School Graduates: The Inaugural Class

Commencement 2013_Dean and Grads

On Monday, September 30, 2013, the Museum conferred seven Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Comparative Biology to the first candidates to complete the program, which is the first Ph.D.-granting program for a museum in the Western Hemisphere.

The seven graduates entered the program in 2008 and 2009, completing their degrees in an average of about four years, with research specializations ranging across geochemical reconstructions of ancient environments and paleoecology from fossil teeth and eggshell, analyses of bioluminescent deep-sea fishes called lantern fishes, and the creation of the first timed phylogeny of scale insects.
Read more about the graduates below—and congratulations to all!

The Museum expresses its utmost appreciation to Richard Gilder, a steadfast and most generous benefactor and friend whose visionary philanthropy enabled the Museum to establish the Gilder Graduate School.
Additional support for the Richard Gilder Graduate School has been generously provided by the Hess Foundation, Inc.; an anonymous Museum Trustee; the City of New York; Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., Gerstner Family Foundation; and the Annette Kade Charitable Trust.

Read more about the 2013 Richard Gilder Graduate School Graduates

Watch a video of the full Commencement ceremony