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Dr. Kyle Summers

Dr. Kyle Summers Awarded 2011 Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor


On Monday, August 22, East Carolina University’s Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences inducted another member of its faculty into the ranks of distinguished professor, an honor bestowed at the beginning of the academic year when a qualifying individual is chosen for the award.

Dr. Kyle Summers, professor of biology, was named the 2011 Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor during the college’s annual faculty convocation, held this year in the Science and Technology building.

The Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professorship is one of the most prestigious at ECU and is conferred upon a professor whose career exemplifies a commitment to and a love for knowledge and academic life, as demonstrated by outstanding teaching and advising, research and creative productivity, and professional service.

“I am delighted and grateful to receive this honor. The faculty of the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences is highly dedicated and accomplished, so it is especially gratifying to receive this recognition given the many excellent candidates available,” said Summers. “I could not have achieved this without the support of many people, including my family, my graduate students, my friends and colleagues in the department of biology (especially the chair) and members of the THCAS administration. Thank you all.”

Throughout his 15 years of academic service to ECU, Summers has displayed the qualities and characteristics required of a Distinguished Professor.

Summers has taught many courses at ECU, including evolutionary ecology, evolutionary medicine, evolution and infectious disease, genetics, evolution, behavioral ecology, and tropical ecology, among others, exhibiting his love for knowledge and academic life. Over the years, he has mentored many students, serving as committee chairperson for 13 graduate students and as a member on 24 graduate student thesis and dissertation committees.

Contributing to the professional realm, Summers is a member of the Animal Behavior Society, American Society of Naturalists, International Society of Behavioral Ecology, Society for the Study of Evolution, Research and Analysis Network for Neotropical Amphibians, National Center for Science Education and the Sigma Xi Society. He currently serves as co-editor of “Foundations of Human Social Evolution,” an edited volume of the classic works of R.D. Alexander, and in 2008, he was appointed to the editorial board of the journal, Ideas in Ecology and Evolution.

Dr. Summers’ research on poison frogs has garnered international recognition, with frequent highlights in National Geographic magazine, BBC Wildlife and Scientific American. He has attracted attention for his research on the evolution of monogamy and for his research in evolutionary medicine. Within the past 10 years, Summers has received nearly 20 grants that total more than $740,000 in funding. He has co-authored more than 70 journal articles and 50 scientific papers, and he has been an invited presenter of more than 40 seminars in his field.

Letters of nomination from colleagues within and outside the ECU community were praiseworthy of Summers’ contributions to his field, adding to the impressive case for inducting him into the prestigious group of Thomas Harriot Distinguished Professors.

“Kyle Summers is the quintessential professor,” writes one ECU colleague. “He is an extraordinary scholar, teacher and academic citizen.”

An external nomination letter reads, “Dr. Summers is, in my opinion, one of the most innovative and productive evolutionary ecologists working in the world today…. Dr. Summers is a uniquely skilled biologist who is continuing to make lasting, broad impacts across a wide swath of the evolutionary-ecological research landscape. He is certainly deeply deserving of this award.”

Summers is a graduate of the University of Michigan, where he received his doctoral degree in biology (‘90). He received his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz (‘84). After postdoctoral research appointments at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Queen’s University, Cambridge University and the University of California at Davis, Summers joined the faculty of ECU in 1996 as an assistant professor of biology.

For additional information, contact Summers at 252-328-6304 or summersk@ecu.edu.