2022 Young Scientist Award (Donath Medal)

Presented to Kimberly V. Lau

Kimberly V. Lau

Kimberly V. Lau
College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Penn State University


Citation by Kate Freeman

Kimberly Lau has advanced the application of non-traditional isotopes and expanded understanding of critical environmental transitions in Earth history. A hallmark of her research is the potent combination of observational data with advanced geochemical modeling techniques. Her work involving uranium and calcium isotopes helped constrain variations in these isotope proxies, and she used these insights to quantify redox changes at the end-Permian mass extinction and following Snowball Earth events in the Neoproterozoic. Kim’s integrated empirical and theoretical studies constrained variations in weathering, which drives biogeochemical cycles on global scales. Her work has also strengthened understanding of the carbon cycle and its relationship with evolution during these key periods. A gifted educator, Kim has demonstrated a deep commitment to equity and to making the geosciences more inclusive. She has opened opportunities for the next generation through innovative teaching, engaged mentoring, and by her leadership in supporting under-represented groups in the geosciences.


Response by Kimberly V. Lau

Thank you to the Geological Society of America for this enormous honor and to the Donath Family for endowing this award.

I am incredibly grateful to my nominators, Kate Freeman, Tim Bralower, Ariel Anbar, Tim Lyons, Kate Maher, Jonathan Payne, and Francis Macdonald for their encouragement and abilities to foster creative and fun scientific communities, as well as to the past Donath recipients who are inspirational geoscience researchers and educators.

Thank you to friends, mentors, and colleagues at Yale, Stanford, UC Riverside, the University of Wyoming, and now at Penn State. I’m incredibly grateful to the undergraduate researchers, graduate students, and postdocs who’ve agreed to work with me—together, they make research engaging and exciting. Sincere thanks go to my collaborators on the analytical aspects and modeling approaches of geochemistry that encourage new questions to pose and techniques to try. Deepest thanks also go to my collaborators who have brought me into the field and inspired new research directions. I am extraordinarily lucky to be part of the supportive and innovative geobiology and sedimentary geochemistry communities. Last, I am very fortunate to have the support of my spouse, Brian, as well as many friends and family, both within and outside of the geoscience community, to whom I give my deepest gratitude.