Dr. Jonathan Lefcheck, a recent graduate of the Ph.D. program at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, was awarded the 2015 Thatcher Prize for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Study during William & Mary’s commencement ceremony on Saturday.
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The highest award for a graduate or professional student at William & Mary, the Thatcher Prize was created in 2000 in honor of W&M’s 21st Chancellor, the late Margaret, The Lady Thatcher.
Lefcheck was selected by W&M’s commencement committee on the basis of scholarship, character, leadership, and service, and has made outstanding contributions to all facets of VIMS’ three-part mission—research, education, and advisory service.
Lefcheck developed rapidly as both an independent and collaborative researcher while a student in W&M’s School of Marine Science at VIMS. An exemplary student, he received a Dean’s Fellowship and a Matthew Fontaine Maury Fellowship Award. He was also a recipient of the Kelley Watson Award for excellent academic performance and leadership as a first-year student.
“It’s a great honor to receive such a prestigious prize,” says Lefcheck. “It speaks to the role of VIMS graduate students as rising leaders in the field of marine science and conservation.”
Lefcheck’s doctoral research combined experiments and field observations to explore how biodiversity supports ecosystem function. He says his next step is to continue at VIMS as a post-doctoral research associate.
During his time at VIMS, Lefcheck joined the editorial board of a major journal and published several papers in peer-reviewed journals as first author and several books that are co-authored with global leaders, including his academic advisor professor Emmett Duffy. His work has been published in highly respected journals, including Nature Communications, Ecology and Nature.
In addition to his own work, he served as a teaching fellow for the undergraduate marine science minor, a teaching assistant, and in an integral role for the Zostera Experimental Network research project with undergraduates.
“Jon is among the very top graduate students I have supervised over two decades at VIMS, and likely the single most productive student in VIMS history in quantity and quality of publications produced during his graduate tenure,” says Duffy. “Jon’s star is still rising fast and shows no sign of stopping. He will be a major, collaborative leader in ecology in the coming decades. I can think of no more worthy candidate for the Thatcher award.”
VIMS Dean and Director John Wells says, “Jon is most deserving of this award, as he embodies VIMS’ interdisciplinary focus and has shown exceptional contributions to our mission by pursuing cutting-edge research while also excelling in the classroom as both a student and a teacher.”
Five other VIMS graduate students have been honored with the Thatcher Prize, including inaugural winner Juliana Harding in 2000, Elizabeth Hinchey in 2003, Kristin France in 2007, Samuel Lake in 2013, and Andre Bucheister in 2014.
“The many opportunities that I have had at VIMS have really allowed me to produce global, impactful science," says Lefcheck. "Its also nice to be able to continue the streak of VIMS recipients of the Thatcher Prize!”