William H. Telfer Endowed Lectureship


Through the William H. Telfer Endowed Lectureship, the graduate students of the Department of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania will have the opportunity to invite a prominent scientist to give a lecture in the Biology Department Seminar Series. The Lecture is meant to be inspirational and will often be held as the final installment of the Biology Seminar Series in the spring semester.


Dr. William Telfer was a faculty member in Biology from 1954-1994, moving here from his Junior Fellow position at Harvard.  Bill was passionate about insects and was an internationally known expert on their biochemistry and physiology.  For much of his career he used the beautiful North American Cecropia moth as a model to study oogenesis.  Dr. Telfer always maintained his intellectual engagement with science.  For example, he published a review summarizing 100 years of research about egg formation in Lepidoptera in the Journal of Insect Science fifteen years after he retired and a year before he passed away.  On January 18, 2011, the Almanac published a remembrance of Dr. Telfer and his contribution to Penn and biological research.  

The first lecture was given on April 19, 2012 by Henry Hagedorn of the University of Wisconsin and entitled: William Telfer, the Consummate Physiologist.

As nominated by Ms. Ruthsabel Cortes, a second-year graduate student, Dr. Victor Ambros of the University of Massachusetts presented his research on April 10, 2014.   The title of presentation by Dr. Victor Ambros was "MicroRNA Pathways in Animal Development."

As nominated by Ms. Aurora MacRae-Crerar, an advanced graduate student in the Biology Graduate Program, Dr. Nalini Nadkarni of the University of Utah and Director of the Center for Science and Mathematics Education presented her research as the next Telfer Endowed Lectureship on May 14, 2015.  The Title of Dr. Nadkarni's presentation was "Weaving the Tapestry of Science and Society:  Synergistic Engagement of Forest Research with Public Audiences." 

Ms. Stephanie Seifert nominated Dr. Thierry Wirth of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle (Paris) for the 2016 Telfer Endowed Lectureship.   On April 28, 2016, Dr. Wirth presented his research on the Origin, Spread, and Demography of Major Human Bacterial Diseases in a Globalizing World."  

Dr. Nancy C. Emery of the University of Colorado Boulder presented her research as the Telfer Endowed Lectureship on April 20, 2017. Dr. Emery was nominated by Emily Behrman, an advanced graduate student in the Paul Schmidt lab.

The Telfer lecture on April 21, 2022 celebrated the installation of the new portrait gallery in the Leidy stairwell in December 2021 which highlights a diverse group of individuals. We invited the living individuals who were added to the Leidy Gallery for the Telfer Endowed Lectureship. This idea was nominated and approved by the Graduate Student Association co-presidents, Heather Schiller and Dajia Ye, the Graduate Group Chair, Brian Gregory, and the SAS Office of Advancement.  Dr. George Langford of Syracuse University, Dr. Gonzalo Castro de la Mata of the Global Center for Sustainability at the Qatar Foundation, and Dr. Ingrid Waldron, an emeritus professor of our own department, presented their “passion projects” either about their active research or outreach around science.