Steltzer Receives 2013 Sulzman Award for Excellence in Education and Mentoring

Heidi Steltzer received the 2013 Sulzman Award for Excellence in Education and Mentoring at the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting, held 9–13 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.”


steltzer_heidiHeidi Steltzer, an assistant professor at Fort Lewis College, received the 2013 Sulz­man Award for Excellence in Education and Mentoring at the 2013 Fall Meeting. This award “recognizes women in AGU who have sustained an active research career in a field related to biogeosciences, while excelling in teaching and especially in mentoring young scientists.” Awardees are to serve as critical role models for the next generation of female scientists by sharing their passion for the natural world. Those who know her best agree that Heidi’s passion for teaching and training the next generation of researchers truly embodies the spirit of the Sulzman award. According to one nominator, “Heidi single-handedly pushed [her] department toward a more modern and integrated view of the biological sciences, revamping curricula in both majors’ and non-majors’ courses to include citizen science, cross-disciplinary investigation techniques, and thought-provoking forays into real-world/real-time problems.” Another nominator commented that “Heidi has made an incredibly strong impact on the careers of countless students through both compassionate and enthusiastic mentoring, as well as leadership in institutional and programmatic efforts that foster student professional development and that provide research experiences. I think it is extraordinary that at this relatively early point in her career, she has already achieved a lasting legacy.”

In addition to being an outstanding teacher and mentor, Heidi has enhanced our understanding of how climate changes and anthropogenic alterations to ecosystems, such as dust deposition, influence the seasonal dynamics of plant growth and carbon and nutrient cycling. Remarkably, Heidi has been able to publish a number of high-profile papers while teaching up to eight classes a year and leading a full and energetic family life.

In conclusion, Heidi Steltzer is exactly the kind of inspiring and creative teacher, mentor, and researcher the Sulzman Award was meant to honor.

—MICHAEL N. WEINTRAUB, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio


I am honored to receive the AGU Sulzman Award and am especially honored to be the first recipient of this award established in memory of Elizabeth Sulzman. At the 2013 Fall Meeting, I learned about the thought and work that went into establishing this award and want to thank all who contributed to its establishment. Awards that recognize outstanding female scientists are needed.

While both genders face challenges in pursuing scientific careers, as a mother, researcher, and educator, I have found the challenges to be greater than expected. I think many women do. Women more often than men feel the need to choose between career and family, choosing family or a career with less opportunity for leadership. The result is a decrease in the proportion of mid- and late-career women relative to men in leadership positions.

As an undergraduate and graduate student, I was fortunate to participate in incredible National Science Foundation (NSF)– and Howard Hughes Medical Institute–supported programs, such as the NSF-Research Experience for Undergraduates program at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory and an NSF graduate fellowship. These programs, the community of male and female colleagues I have developed, and my family, particularly my husband and mother, have enabled me to remain committed to a career in science, where I hope I can make a difference toward improving our understanding of the natural world and innovating education, including the changes needed to enable men and women to pursue and remain in scientific careers. A special thanks to Mike Weintraub for your friendship and support and the nomination for this award.

—HEIDI STELTZER, Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colo.