Professor Fierke received her B.A. (1978) degree from Carleton College and her Ph.D. (1984) degree from Brandeis University. She served on the faculty of Duke University from 1987–99. Professor Fierke joined the University of Michigan faculty as a professor in 1999. She was named the Jerome and Isabella Karle Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry in 2013. She was appointed dean of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies and vice provost for academic affairs-graduate studies in 2015. She retired from active faculty status in 2017.
Professor Fierke's research focused on understanding the biological function and molecular basis of catalysis and molecular recognition in medically important enzymes and pathways. She authored over 235 peer-reviewed papers, chaired 39 doctoral committees, and mentored 27 postdoctoral scholars and 50 undergraduates in her lab. Professor Fierke served as chair of the Department of Chemistry from 2005–09 and 2010–15. She oversaw the development and implementation of a strategic plan, which led to improvements in the recruitment of women and underrepresented minority faculty, the national rankings, the acquisition of external funding, and graduate student enrollment. A strong advocate for women and people of color in the sciences, her legacy at the University of Michigan includes improving the campus environment for faculty and students as well as her work with the ADVANCE Program to further its mission of diversity and excellence.