In spring 2015, Sallie “Penny” Chisholm was awarded MIT’s highest faculty honor: the position of Institute Professor. Chisholm, the Lee and Geraldine Martin Professor of Environmental Studies since 2002, joins an elite group of 13 current Institute Professors and 10 Institute Professors emeriti, all recognized for their scholarly and educational accomplishments and also for their outstanding leadership and service.
Chisholm joined MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as a marine ecologist in 1976 and a decade later co-discovered Prochlorococcus, a tiny marine bacterium that is the most abundant photosynthetic cell on Earth. With the help of advancing genomic technology—and aided by MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) seed grants in 2007 and 2012—Chisholm and her colleagues have gained insights into how crucial Prochlorococcus is to the ocean environment and to the planet as a whole.
In May 2015, Chisholm received MIT’s prestigious Killian Award in recognition of her extraordinary research accomplishments, and in February 2013, she received the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest honor in science and engineering.
Chisholm is also author—with illustrator Molly Bang—of “The Sunlight Series,” an award-winning set of children’s books covering such topics as photosynthesis, ocean ecology, and climate change.