Sheila Stiles

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Voices from the Science Centers


Voices from the Science Centers is an oral history initiative dedicated to documenting the institutional knowledge of fisheries scientists and administrators in the labs of NOAA’s Fisheries Science Centers.

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Biographical Sketch

Dr. Sheila Stiles was born in Memphis, Tennessee. As a young child she developed a love for nature which led to her focusing on science in college. She majored in biology at Xavier University, New Orleans. After graduation, she had the opportunity to work at the Milford Laboratory for the summer and was asked to stay on at the end of the summer. She was the first full time African American woman to be hired at the Lab. She credits her many mentors and her love of biology as the reason for her long, successful career. Dr. Stiles has a Master's from the University of Connecticut in Zoology/Ecology and a PhD from the University of Massachusetts in Fish Genetics.

Interview contains discussions of: laboratory work on oysters, clams, and bay scallops, aquaculture, genetic experiments, pollutants and contaminants, breeding, DNA, mentoring, GMOs, karyotype, polyploidy, application of molecular genetics in marine science. 

Sheila Stiles discusses her passion for science and the love of the work she does. Her upbringing and the value her family placed on education led to her drive to succeed professionally and her mentoring of students throughout her career. She explains how she came to chose a government job for the stability but chose to stay at the Milford Lab for her entire career because her love of the work. Her passion for her work is evident throughout this interview as well as the impact her mentors had on her. She details the evolution of genetic studies and how genetics can help with future issues such as climate change and the Zika virus, for example. She talks about other universities she has collaborated with, challenges she has faced while working at the lab, and her biggest accomplishments. She also sees the need to explain the mystery of genetics and the science to the public in order to demystify the process and encourage the next generation of scientists.

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