Alumnus Phillip Klahs Receives 2019-2020 Brown Graduate Fellowship

Iowa State University in Ames recently awarded Phillip Klahs ’12 ΔΤΔ  a 2019-2020 Brown Graduate Fellowship. Klahs is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology at Iowa State. His research focuses on the grass flower and the aerodynamics of wind pollination. Klahs majored in biology and mathematics at Westminster before earning a Master of Science degree in biological sciences at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN, in 2014. Read more about Klahs here and below.  

Please tell about your current studies and the fellowship you recently received. I received the Brown Fellowship at Iowa State University to support my research on the evolution of flower morphology in the grass family (Poaceae). The fellowship recognizes promising research in the fields of agriculture, science, and space science. My research measures the influence of shape variation in grass flowers on their aerodynamics.

Do you enjoy what you do? I enjoy my current project very much. It occurs in a wonderful intersection of space science and agriculture, and highlighting this interdisciplinary aspect of a macroevolution focused dissertation helped me receive the Brown Fellowship. The research also has elements of classical botany, biomechanics, and a heavy dose of art.

How did your research interests develop? I really fell in love with the grass family first. My master’s degree at East Tennessee State University included a floristic survey of a 2000-acre park in the Appalachian Mountains, and I quickly realized that grasses were often overlooked because they are difficult to identify. I embraced the challenge and discovered there were more questions surrounding this extremely important angiosperm family, and so after leaving Tennessee, I came to ISU to focus on Poaceae. It was not until after I started at ISU that I settled on the question of wind pollination and the evolution of flower architecture.

Where did you grow up? I was born in Howell, Michigan. I lived in Bloomsdale, Missouri, while attending Westminster College. I attended high school at Father Gabriel Richard in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for my freshman and sophomore years and St. Pius X in Festus, Missouri, for my junior and senior years.

What organizations outside of work are you involved in? The American Society of Plant Taxonomists, Botanical Society of America, Iowa Native Plant Society, and Tennessee Native Plant Society.

Spouse’s name and occupation? Sarah Klahs, Marketing and Events Coordinator at Della Viti, Ames.

Children? Penelope Klahs, 1.

Favorite Westminster faculty member(s)? Chris Saunders and Erin Martin.

Favorite spot on campus? There used to be an old oak tree behind the historic gym that I would climb up into late at night.

A book you would recommend to others? I am in the middle of Life in Moving Fluids by Vogel. I would recommend finding and buying a copy of a local flora: Flora of Missouri, the Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States, or wherever you call home and would go hiking.

Favorite movie? It’s a Wonderful Life.

What do you do in your free time? Play with my daughter.

Look for a profile on Klahs’ brother Kyle, a Westminster alumnus from the Class of 2014, in an upcoming issue of Westminster Today.

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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.