David M. Hillis, who is considered by many to be the world leader in the area of molecular systematics, is being recognized by the College for his academic accomplishments. Hillis earned three degrees from KU: a master of arts in 1983; a master of philosophy with honors in 1984 and a doctorate with honors in 1985, all in biological sciences. He was a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow from 1982 to 1985 and was named Outstanding Young Alumnus by Baylor University in 1994. In 1999, he was awarded the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellow "genius award," and in 2000 he became an Elected Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Hillis is currently the Alfred W. Roark Centennial Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin.
The focus of Hillis' research is the study of evolution of biotic diversity. His book, Molecular Systematics, which he co-authored, is referred to by molecular systematics scientists around the world. Hillis is known for his work on a criminal case, which pioneered the use of phylogenetic data as admissible evidence in U.S. courts.