5/11/2013 Staff

Kathleen Triman: 2013 Recipient of the Socrates Citation

  • Kathleen Triman

Through her 23-year career at Franklin & Marshall College, Kathleen Triman has represented the ideal of a liberal arts professor. She is a much-admired instructor, her research has been of great value to colleagues in her field, and she has provided her students transformative experiences in the classroom and laboratory. Professor Triman is renowned for her warmth and her ability to see the best in everyone, and has made Franklin & Marshall a better place.

Professor Triman received her B.A. in zoology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and completed her Ph.D. at the University of Oregon, where she studied genetic recombination. She then moved to the University of California, Santa Cruz, to pursue postdoctoral studies, beginning the work that would remain her focus throughout her career: examining the structure and function of RNA.

Professor Triman came to Franklin & Marshall in 1990 as an assistant professor in the Department of Biology. In 1995 she became the first woman to receive tenure in the department, and she went on to become the first female chair of the department and the first woman in the department to achieve the rank of full professor. During this time, she developed a powerful research tool that grew out of her interest in genetics: the Ribosomal RNA Mutation Database. This resource, which allows researchers to identify mutations in the ribosome and associate them with particular physical characteristics of the organism, has been housed at Franklin & Marshall since its creation in 1994, at a time when publicly accessible digital databases were unusual and computational biology was in its infancy. Professor Triman has carefully maintained and expanded the database since then, and it continues to be used by molecular biologists from around the world.

Professor Triman also is a beloved teacher and adviser to Franklin & Marshall students. She was a popular instructor in genetics and molecular biology for many years, and she created the general education courses for non-majors, “Human Genetics” and “Genetic Testing.” These classes have allowed first-year students to grapple with the scientific and ethical challenges arising from our increasing understanding of the human genome. Professor Triman was a pioneer at Franklin & Marshall in bioinformatics and provided crucial leadership in the incorporation of bioinformatics into the biology curriculum.

With the advent of the College House System at Franklin & Marshall, Professor Triman became deeply involved with student residential life. She was an interim Faculty Don from 2007–2008, and then Faculty Don for Schnader College House (now Weis College House) from 2009–2012. Her students will speak fondly of her guidance, support, and friendship.

As Professor Triman embarks on her life after Franklin & Marshall, she will continue to serve as an inspiration to all of us who seek to combine the highest ideals of teaching and scholarship with compassion for our students and colleagues. This summer, she will return again, as she has for many years, to the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, where she will rub shoulders with geneticists from around the world.

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