Dr. Sheila Counce-Nicklas was born in 1927 in Hayes Center, Nebraska. She received her BA and MA from the University of Colorado, in 1948 and 1950 respectively. She received her PhD from the University of Edinburgh, in developmental genetics in 1954 after serving as a Fulbright Fellow (1950-1951, 1951-1952) and an American Association of University Women Fellow (1952-1953). Dr. Counce was also a Macauley Fellow at the University of Edinburgh (1955-1956) and a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Zurich (1956-1957).
After serving as research assistant (1958-1959), lecturer (1958-1959), and research associate (1958-1965) at Yale, Dr. Counce came to Duke to serve as a research associate in zoology. She joined the Department of Anatomy in 1967 as one of the first women in the department and ultimately became full professor in the department in 1978. Her research focused on sex differences among insects, on which she published widely. She also has been active in a number of professional associations, and has served as the director of graduate studies for the department, and on the Appointments and Promotions Committee of Trinity College, and the Admissions Committee at Duke University School of Medicine.