Jane Willenbring receives AGU’s Marguerite T. Williams Award

Associate Professor of Geological Sciences JANE WILLENBRING has been presented with the inaugural Marguerite T. Williams Award from the American Geophysical Union (AGU). The award, which honors a Black scientist who pioneered broader participation in STEM by earning her PhD in geology in 1942, recognizes contributions to research and community-building by a mid-career scientist in the field of Earth and planetary surface processes.

Jane Willenbring (Courtesy Stanford Earth)

In addition to significant contributions to methods of understanding rates of erosion and mineral weathering, Willenbring has organized citizen science campaigns with the goal of cleaning urban areas and environments affected by agriculture. In Philadelphia, she started a campaign called “Soil Kitchen” to test the urban environment for lead and other metals, which is now a national program. Her Title IX complaint in 2016 led to publicity about discrimination and harassment of women in STEM and brought the #MeToo movement to academia and changes in federal policy and professional organizations. She will be recognized for her efforts during the AGU Fall Meeting in December.

“Mentally separate the profession of academia, which can be draining, from the joy of science,” Willenbring advises graduate students. “Make time to feel inspired a part of your regular life.”

Willenbring’s research explores the evolution of the Earth’s surface using geochemistry, high-resolution topographic data and field observations. She will be a Stanford University Gabilan Faculty Fellow in 2021-23.

“I still have the sense of wonder and curiosity I had as a kid and this makes me want to better understand the Earth and this is still how I ‘play,’ ” she said. “I have fun doing science every single day.”