Featured Alumni


Phillip Klahs '08

Iowa State University in Ames recently awarded Phillip Klahs '04 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 ('12) before earning a Master of Science degree in biological sciences at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN, in 2014.

He received the Brown Fellowship at Iowa State University to support his 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. His research measures the influence of shape variation in grass flowers on their aerodynamics

He enjoys his 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 him receive the Brown Fellowship. The research also has elements of classical botany, biomechanics, and a heavy dose of art.

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

He was born in Howell, Michigan. He lived in Bloomsdale, Missouri, while attending Westminster College. He attended high school at Father Gabriel Richard in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as a freshman and sophomore and finished his final two years of high school at St. Pius X.

He is also involved in The American Society of Plant Taxonomists, Botanical Society of America, Iowa Native Plant Society, and Tennessee Native Plant Society.

He resides in Ames, IA with his wife Sarah (Knapp '08) Klahs and daughter Penelope, 1.


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