In Memoriam: Eddie Hillman

Written by Josh Herr, University of Nebraska, and Kristi Gdanetz MacCready, Michigan State University
Edward “Eddie” Hillman, 26, a member of the MSA Student Section, passed away in November. Eddie was from Danville, Illinois, and graduated in 2010 from Armstrong Township High School in southeastern Illinois. He was the valedictorian of his graduating class, and his favorite subjects in school were biology, chemistry, and physics.

In 2010, Eddie attended Eastern Illinois University where he majored in biology. It was here that he was introduced to the fungi through Dr. Andrew Methven. Eddie had two undergraduate research projects at EIU during his time there. Eddie’s first undergraduate project was focused on culturing chitinophilic fungi from eastern bluebird eggshells. It was during this project that he was able to hone his ability to culture fungi, and he devised his own media formulations. Eddie subsequently worked on another project surveying lichen diversity in the southern United States. He graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 2014 with university honors.

Eddie had a strong passion for teaching. After graduating from EIU, Eddie returned to his high school and began teaching physics and chemistry. Eddie also had a great love for archery and served as the archery coach. After a few years of teaching at the high school level, Eddie decided that he missed the scientific research he conducted in college. Inspired by the mentorship from Andy Methven, Eddie had determined that he eventually wanted to teach at the college level. 

In the fall of 2016, Eddie moved to Nebraska to pursue his Ph.D. in plant pathology under the direction of Dr. Joshua Herr. Eddie developed a strong interest in ascomycetes, and his dissertation research project focused on the comparative genomics of the genus Morchella. At the time of his stroke, Eddie was becoming more interested in researching fungal-bacterial interactions and had begun to sequence and culture bacteria associated with morel fruiting bodies.

During one of his courses in plant pathology at the University of Nebraska, Eddie became quite interested in Fusarium wilt of banana and had begun to develop an interest in the molecular systematics of the Fusarium oxysporum species complex. Eddie was able to attend the IMC meeting in San Juan this last summer, and he was very excited about tropical mycology after that meeting. He had determined that after he finished his Ph.D. that he would do post-doctoral research in a tropical location.

Eddie will be remembered as someone who always helped the other students in the laboratory. He had been mentoring two undergraduate researchers at the time of his passing. He was fond of wearing t-shirts with science puns and mycological jokes on them. Eddie was very proud of his membership in the Mycological Society of America.