Sarah Tishkoff Named Penn's Newest PIK Professor

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Media Contact:Jordan Reese | | 215-573-6604January 16, 2008

PHILADELPHIA -– Sarah Tishkoff, a leading global expert in human genetics, has been named the sixth Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

The announcement was made today by Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Ronald Daniels.

Tishkoff will be the David and Lyn Silfen University Associate Professor, named in recognition of a Silfen family gift. Her appointment will be shared between the Department of Genetics in the School of Medicine and the Department of Biology in the School of Arts and Sciences.

The Penn Integrates Knowledge program was launched by Gutmann in 2005 as a University-wide initiative to recruit exceptional faculty members whose research and teaching exemplify the integration of knowledge across disciplines and who are jointly appointed between two schools at Penn.

“Sarah Tishkoff’s scholarship in human genetics and the nature of genetic diversity underscores the leaps of knowledge that we can make by path-breaking discoveries that integrate previously distinct fields of study,” Gutmann said. “Her appointment will have a profound influence on teaching and research in genetics and biology at Penn. She also will strengthen Penn’s ever-increasing contributions to global knowledge and understanding.”

Tishkoff works primarily in Africa, where she has compiled the world’s most extensive DNA database, representing more than 7,000 Africans from more than 100 ethnic groups. Her research examines how genetic variations and genetic diversity can affect a wide range of practical issues, including, for example, differences in human susceptibility to disease, metabolism of drugs and evolutionary adaptation.

“Sarah Tishkoff is one of the dominant international figures in human genetics research,” Daniels said. “Her appointment puts Penn at the leading edge of this discipline, which is answering some of the deepest questions about human life and evolution.”

Tishkoff’s research is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Keck Foundation and the Leakey Foundation. She has won a Packard Career Award and a Burroughs/Wellcome Fund Career Award and was named one of Popular Science Magazine’s “Brilliant 10” American scientists in 2003.

Tishkoff has taught at the University of Maryland since 2000. She received her Ph.D. and M.Phil. in genetics from Yale University and her B.S. in anthropology and genetics from the University of California, Berkeley. She was a postdoctoral fellow in biology at Penn State University from 1997 to 2000.

David Silfen, a 1966 graduate of the College at Penn, is a senior director of The Goldman Sachs Group, a member of the Executive Committee of Penn’s Board of Trustees, a member of Penn’s Investment Committee and an overseer of the School of Arts and Sciences.

In addition to two Penn Integrates Knowledge professorships, the Silfens have endowed an annual lecture series, provided support for the Pilot Curriculum in the School of Arts and Sciences and created the Silfen Student Study Center in Perelman Quadrangle.