Benitez-Nelson Receives 2014 Sulzman Award for Excellence in Education and Mentoring

Claudia Benitez-Nelson received the 2014 Sulzman Award for Excellence in Education and Mentoring at the 2014 AGU Fall Meeting, held 15–19 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is given for “significant contributions by a mid-career female scientist as a role model and mentor for the next generation of biogeoscientists.”

BenitezNelson_Claudia-Sulzman_Award(2)Dr. Claudia Benitez-Nelson is a College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Professor in the Marine Science Program and Department of Earth & Ocean Sciences at the University of South Carolina.  She is the recipient of the 2014 Sulzman Award for Excellence in Education and Mentoring, which “recognizes women in AGU who have sustained an active research career in a field related to biogeosciences, while excelling in teaching, mentoring young scientists, and serving as critical role models for the next generation of female scientists.”

Dr. Benitez-Nelson has made mentoring, teaching, and outreach a critical component of her career.  Her impact at South Carolina was immediate, resulting in her being named the 2002 South Carolina Alliance for Minority Participation Outstanding Mentor.  In 2005, she received the Michael J. Mungo Undergraduate Teaching Award, and named Outstanding Faculty of the Year by the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.  Since then, she has continued to receive awards for excellence in outreach and teaching.  In 2013 she was named USC Distinguished Professor of the Year, USC’s highest honor.

What makes Dr. Benitez-Nelson so special is that she also maintains a high profile and active research program.  Her research focuses on understanding the ocean’s role in climate change, as well as human impacts on nutrient biogeochemistry and coastal ecology.  She has authored or co-authored over 80 publications in a wide range of journals and is the recipient of over $4 million in research funds.  In 2006, Dr. Benitez-Nelson research was recognized by the American Geophysical Union, where she received the Ocean Sciences Early Career Award.

Those who know her best agree, that Dr. Benitez-Nelson has accomplished so much in her career, and that the vast connections within the oceanography community, her service on prestigious committees and boards, and her passion for education, mentoring, and outreach is why she is the recipient of the 2014 AGU Elizabeth Sulzman Award for Excellence in Education and Mentoring.

-DEIDRE GIBSON, Hampton University, Hampton, VA;

ADINA PAYTAN, University of California at Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA


It is a great honor to receive the 2014 AGU Sulzman Award.  Dr. Sulzman is a true inspiration to many, and it is a privilege to receive an honor established on her behalf.

I believe that mentoring and education of scientists throughout their career is critical to the success of our field.  Creating a diverse population of researchers brings new insights and allows for novel interactions that might otherwise be lost within more homogeneous groups. Indeed, we now recognize how important biodiversity is to the Earth’s ecosystem, is it so hard to believe that the same is true for the geosciences?  The difficulty is to convince students from varied backgrounds just how exciting, challenging and ultimately rewarding a science career can be.  I feel I have the best job ever!  I have the opportunity to conduct research in any area that I choose and to interact with scientists and students from cultures all over the world.

I am fortunate to be surrounded by a truly wonderful support group – strong female mentors and colleagues, the faculty, staff and administration at the University of South Carolina who have allowed me to be innovative in both research and education, and an incredible partner who always supports me in everything that I do.

Thank you Drs. Adina Paytan and Deidre Gibson for nominating me for this wonderful award, to Drs. John Farrington and Mary Jo Richardson for their letters of support, and the Biogeosciences Section of AGU for giving me this wonderful honor.

-CLAUDIA BENITEZ-NELSON, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC