GSA Medals & Awards

Subaru Outstanding Woman in Science Award

Michelle A. Walvoord
Michelle A. Walvoord
U.S. Geological Survey, Denver

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Presented to Michelle A. Walvoord


I am truly honored to be awarded the Outstanding Woman in Science Award in memory of Doris Curtis. I would like to sincerely thank the GSA committee and also Subaru for its sponsorship and those that nominated me.

I have had the privilege and fortune of having outstanding mentors that have challenged and inspired me since taking my first Geology class at Hamilton College and entering the Earth Science community. Just last month, an old high school friend of mine sent me a pack of letters that I had written to her while we were at college and she had saved. Among the usual all-nighter diatribes and I'm in love … again declarations, were a few statements that I thought were particularly poignant. I had written that although many of my classmates were agonizing over their decision of what to major in, I could not have been more confident with or excited about my decision to choose Geology. And for that feeling of certainty and enthusiasm I have the Geology faculty at Hamilton College to thank for fostering such a positive learning atmosphere and also my fellow students just for being great. and curious and fun. That experience propelled me to continue learning and questioning how the earth works, and I chose to pursue Master's and Ph.D. degrees at New Mexico Tech, where interaction with faculty and my fellow students helped shape the direction of my research and renewed my curiosity. I learned so many important lessons there — it's hard to single out one or two, but I'm going to give it a shot. I learned that it's OK to table a previously posed research pursuit when a more interesting research question presents itself. In fact, my entire Ph.D. study took a different tack early on, I went with it, and it worked out well. Research is dynamic. I also learned the importance of the big picture. Maintaining a balance between paying proper attention to detail — whether it be making a measurement in the field, the lab, or calibrating a model simulation — and recognizing how that element fits into the big picture is what separates a good scientist from a great one. And I've learned from some great ones. My Ph.D. adviser at New Mexico Tech, Fred Phillips, led by example. Then there's John Wilson, Andy Wolfsberg from Los Alamos National Lab, and now my colleagues at the USGS, Rob Striegl, Dave Stonestrom — they all have encouraged me to think outside the box, but keep it real. I'm so grateful for their mentoring.

Today is an exciting time to be a woman scientist — and a scientist, in general. Many of the most important questions in the Earth Sciences require even bigger picture thinking than ever before since issues like climate change, water resources, and ecosystem sustainability, require multidisciplinary approaches and good communication across various fields.

I'm proud to be recognized by a society that encourages big picture thinking, multidisciplinary communication, women and minorities in science and actively supports student research. Thank you again.

Subaru of America - Partnering to Advance the Geosciences
This award sponsored by Subaru of America, Inc.