In Memoriam: Biology Professor Kurt M. Pickett
- By Craig E Wells
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Kurt Milton Pickett who passed away on February 11, 2011 after a long struggle with cancer. Dr. Pickett joined the UVM faculty in 2007 as an Assistant Professor of Biology after having completed a highly successful stint as a Theodore Roosevelt Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Dr. Pickett was passionate about his work, the Department and University, and about his life. He was an expertly trained insect taxonomist whose research focused on the evolution of social behavior, using the wasp family, Vespidae, as his study subject. He combined time-honored data from sources such as adult and larval morphology and behavioral attributes, with modern molecular data and proteomics, to conduct revisionary taxonomy, phylogenetic systematics, and investigations into the evolution of social behavior across the family. Dr. Pickett also investigated various methodological and computational issues in phylogenetics. He seamlessly combined all of these components—along with frequent trips to the field to collect and observe wasps —to fulfill his vision in creating a laboratory that was a cohesive representation of the continuum of studies in the taxonomy and social behavior of the Vespidae. To this end, he was extraordinarily successful.
Dr. Pickett was a highly sought after speaker and had given presentations across the US, in Finland and in Hungary, to name only a few. He was an Associate Editor of Cladistics and Annales Zoologici Fennici, and a mentor to five graduate students of his own and many others for whom he served as a committee member or an informal advisor. Dr. Pickett was a natural orator and a brilliant teacher who cared deeply for his students. He was an inspiration to his colleagues, students and friends. Based on his vigorous record of research, teaching, and service, Dr. Pickett was recently promoted to Associate Professor with tenure.
Dr. Pickett is survived by his partner of 11 years, Greg Tolman, his parents, Kathy and Henry Pickett, and his brothers, Hunter, Joshua, Benjamin and Henry. A memorial service will be held on March 26, at 2:00 pm in Ira Allen Chapel. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in Kurt's name to the Philadelphia Center. While still a teenager, Kurt was instrumental in the early development of this HIV service organization in Shreveport.
Shreveport, LA 71104