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Professor Sallie W. (Penny) Chisholm, an internationally respected biological oceanographer and physiological ecologist, has been appointed to the McAfee Professorship of Engineering for a five-year renewable term, Provost Mark S. Wrighton has announced. The appointment was effective December 1.
The professorship was established by Gulf Oil Corp. in honor of Dr. Jerry McAfee, a former Gulf chairman and CEO, who received the ScD degree in chemical engineering from MIT in 1940. Dr. McAfee is a Life Member Emeritus of the MIT Corporation.
Professor Wrighton, in making the announcement, praised Professor Chisholm for serving with "remarkable distinction" since 1988 as the MIT director of the MIT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Joint Program in Oceanography and Oceanographic Engineering. The program offers joint graduate degrees in oceanography and oceanographic engineering.
Professor Chisholm, who holds a joint academic appointment in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Biology, was one of the principal investigators in the 1988 discovery of a species of microscopic photosynthetic plankton that may be among the most abundant species on earth. Despite their abundance, the organisms had escaped notice because they were not distinguishable using traditional microscopic techniques. Professor Chisholm and her colleagues used a flow cytometer, developed for biomedical research, to explore the photoplankton world with a different set of `eyes.'
The new McAfee professor holds the BA in biology/chemistry from Skidmore College (1969) and the PhD in biology from the State University of New York-Albany (1974). She joined MIT in 1976. Since 1978 she has been a visiting scientist in the WHOI Biology Department. From 1974-78 she was a postdoctoral researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
She is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is a member of the International Ecology Institute.
In 1991 she received the Rosenstiel Award in Oceanographic Science from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. The awardcited her work on regulation of cell division cycles in plankton.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 11, 1995.