Add Video to Favourites 

Sallie (Penny) W. Chisholm

Institute Professor Sallie Chisholm highlights moments from her career that she's most proud of, including the discovery of cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus

Institute Professor Sallie Chisholm highlights moments from her career that she's most proud of, including the discovery of cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus

Sallie (Penny) W. Chisholm
Institute Professor
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Department of Biology

Dr. Chisholm joined the MIT faculty in 1976.  She is the principal investigator at the Chisholm Lab at MIT, which studies the role of cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus in the ocean’s metabolism.  Discovered by Dr. Chisholm and her colleagues in 1988, Prochlorococcus is the most abundant photosynthetic microorganism in the oceans.  Her research is devoted to developing Prochlorococcus as a model system for advancing our understanding of the ecology and evolution of marine microbes.

Dr. Chisholm participated on the committee that conducted the study of the status of women on the MIT Faculty in Science in the 1990s and 2000s.  She is the author of three children’s books with co-author and illustrator Molly Bang.  

Dr. Chisholm holds a bachelors degree from Skidmore College and she received her Ph. D. from S.U.N.Y. Albany.  She is a recipient of the 2011 National Medal of Science.  

Highlights of this interview include:
    •    Growing up in Marquette, Michigan on Lake Superior.
    •    Began to develop an interest in marine biology while an undergraduate at Skidmore College. 
    •    Switched to oceanography as a postdoc at Scripps Oceanographic Institute. 
    •    The story of discovering Prochlorococcus and then realizing the magnitude of the discovery.
    •    The role of Prochlorococcus in keeping the ocean food-web churning. 
    •    Prochlorococcus was among the first microbes to have its genome sequenced.
    •    Genomics revolutionized the research on Prochlorococcus.
    •    The information in these microorganisms is bringing CO2 into the ocean and sending oxygen out of the ocean and cycling all of the elements.
    •    Her goal is to study this single organism from the genome all the way up to the level of the global biosphere.
    •    Decision to join the faculty at MIT and also the connection with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. 
    •    How MIT has changed while she has been on the faculty. 
    •    Her participation on the committee that conducted a study on the status of women in the MIT faculty of science.
    •    The current work going on at the Chisholm Lab.  Prochlorococcus is the gift that keeps on giving. 
    •    Writing children’s books with collaborator Molly Bang.
    •    Reflections on the impact of MIT on the City of Cambridge past and future. 

Search Transcripts

Type a word here to search all video transcripts. You can then click on the filter icon to further restrict the selection with a choice of filters such as roles, topics and video types.