Shirley M. Malcom to Receive 2021 Gold Key Award

July 27, 2021

shirley_malcolmRESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society is honored to announce that Shirley M. Malcom, PhD, is the 2021 recipient of the Gold Key Award. As the Society's highest and most prestigious honor, the Gold Key Award is presented to a member who has made extraordinary contributions to their profession and has fostered critical innovations to enhance the health of the research enterprise, to cultivate integrity in research, or to promote the public understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition. 

“Dr. Malcom has pioneered and championed much of the thinking about diversity and inclusivity in science that is finally being adopted today. We are delighted to present her with the Sigma Xi Gold Key Award,” announced Jamie Vernon, executive director and CEO of Sigma Xi.

Malcom will accept the Gold Key Award and address the Society during the Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference, taking place virtually, November 4–7.

“It is hard to overstate Dr. Malcom’s contributions to the sciences and science education,” said Sigma Xi President Robert Pennock. “She has been a leader for many decades in program after program, guiding the community to improve itself both in access and outreach. She is a model of the values that Sigma Xi stands for and a worthy recipient of the Society’s highest honor.”

Trained as a zoologist and ecologist, Malcom has played many roles in her distinguished career, including high school science teacher, university faculty member, and National Science Foundation program officer. In her current role as the senior advisor and director of SEA Change at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), she leads initiatives that focus on the advancement of institutional transformation in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Malcom has been a pioneer and role model for African American women in science. Throughout her career, she has advocated for the advancement of science education for minority students at every level, from K-12 through college, graduate school, and beyond. In 1976, she co-authored the landmark report, The Double Bind: The Price of Being a Minority Woman in Science and reflected on the obstacles overcome in her own professional journey in the inspirational 2002 article, On Being the Only.

She is a fellow of the AAAS and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. From 1994–1998, she served on the National Science Board, the policymaking body of the National Science Foundation, and from 1994–2001 on the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology. In 2003 Malcom received the Public Welfare Medal of the National Academy of Sciences, the highest award given by the Academy. In 2006, she was named as co-chair (with Leon Lederman) of the National Science Board Commission on 21st Century Education in STEM. 

Malcom received her doctorate in ecology from Pennsylvania State University; master's degree in zoology from the University of California, Los Angeles; and bachelor's degree with distinction in zoology from the University of Washington. She has been a member of Sigma Xi since 1990. 

The symbolism of the Gold Key Award pays homage to the early days of Sigma Xi (late 1800s to early 1900s), when induction into the Society was often accompanied by the presentation of a small gold key. The key was routinely attached as a charm to a bracelet or chain that held a pocket watch, which was the style of the day, and represented pride in the science or engineering accomplishments of the holder. Previous recipients of the award include Walter E. Massey, Gordon E. Moore, and Norman R. Augustine.

More About Sigma Xi: Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society is the world’s largest multidisciplinary honor society for scientists and engineers. Its mission is to enhance the health of the research enterprise, foster integrity in science and engineering, and promote the public understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition. Sigma Xi chapters can be found at colleges and universities, government laboratories, and industry research centers around the world. More than 200 Nobel Prize winners have been members. The Society is based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. On Twitter: @SigmaXiSociety