It is an honor and a source of great pride to present Jane Willenbring as winner of the inaugural Marguerite T. Williams Award for midcareer scientists. Jane received this award in recognition of her contributions toward the use of cosmogenic radionuclides to advance foundational understanding of Earth surface processes and of her support of woman and minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Jane’s research has tackled a broad range of questions and technique developments that are pertinent to critical zone processes, geomorphic change, and erosion rates. Her publications are thought-provoking and dip into the heart of leading-edge questions related to the application of cosmogenic nuclides to geomorphic research. Importantly, Jane is recognized for her tireless mentorship and community outreach activities and her active voice in support of change regarding discrimination, equity, and harassment in the geosciences and other STEM fields. Jane’s combined research and outreach efforts exemplify some of the best characteristics of a scientific leader and embody the spirit of the Marguerite T. Williams Award for contributions to research and community-building.
—Tammy Rittenour, Utah State University, Logan
Thank you, Tammy, for your generous citation, to my nominators for their support, and to the Earth and Planetary Surface Processes group that proposed this new award named after the first Black geologist to receive a Ph.D. in the United States. Thanks also to Nicole Gasparini, friend and collaborator, who led both the creation of the award and my nomination.
Although at heart I’m still just a kid making rivers in the mud with a garden hose, my worldview has been shaped by many people since then. As a high school student, then as a McNair Scholar at North Dakota State University, I worked with Prof. Allan Ashworth. Having his example of patient mentorship showing me how science can bring decades of joy and adventure to life was truly formative. I note that those student opportunities created possibilities for me that the award’s namesake and many others would have benefited from in the past.
I like to imagine that I have navigated my science life path using a constellation of scientist stars too numerous to mention—each shining in their own way. Some guided me toward ideas without even knowing me. Some showed me new ways of thinking about problems. Some provided examples of how to be a decent human—or not. I’m grateful to those who walk with me now. I’m so inspired by how far we’ve all come together and how far we can still go.
—Jane Willenbring, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.