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Meet our GWIS Honorary Membership Award Recipients

Full List Available Here

2018 - Donna Nelson, Ph.D.

Dr. Nelson obtained her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Oklahoma and her Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Texas Austin and started as faculty at the University of Oklahoma. She was the first woman and the first assistant professor to be a Faculty Fellow at this university. She also was a visiting professor at MIT with Dr. Nancy Hopkins, a previous Honorary Membership Award winner (2003) and Dr. Michael Strano. In 2016, she served as the president of the American Chemistry Society. Dr. Nelson served as the Science Advisor for the hit television show Breaking Bad. She is also known for the Nelson Diversity Surveys. Below is a transcript of her interview.

Dr. Donna Nelson was awarded the Florence R. Sabin Award for Research Excellence and Honorary Membership Award.



2018 - Marigold Linton, Ph.D.

Marigold Linton, Cahuilla-Cupeno, is an enrolled member of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.  She was born and raised on the Morongo Reservation in Southern California. Her great-grandmother was one of the great Cahuilla basket makers.  Marigold is the first California reservation Indian to have ever left a (California) reservation to go to a university. She is reportedly the 17th American Indian to have ever earned a PhD in any discipline.  She now likely holds the oldest Ph.D. of any living American Indian.

She received her BA from the University of California, Riverside; did graduate work at the University of Iowa; and received her PhD from UCLA with degrees in experimental psychology.  She redirected her research area to cognitive experimental psychology during a sabbatical/postdoctoral year with Donald E. Norman at UCSD.

She taught at San Diego State University for 10 years reaching the rank of full professor and was recruited by the University of Utah as full professor and remained for 12 years.  Then interested in expanding her scope she spent 12 years an administrator at Arizona State University. She served most importantly as Director of American Indian Programs serving 19 Arizona tribes through the NSF Rural Systemic Initiative.  She then moved to the University of Kansas as Director of American Indian Outreach where she is in her 22th year.  

At KU she developed a consortium with Haskell Indian Nations University to support biomedical research opportunities for American Indian students and faculty at both institutions.  To support this collaboration she has maintained funding through NIH mechanisms including the Bridges to the Baccalaureate programs, Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (IMSD), Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE), Post Baccalaureate Research Education Program (PREP), and the Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (IRACDA).  With partners she has secured $30 million plus for this consortium.

She is counted as a founder of both the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) and the National Indian Education Association (NIEA).  She served on the SACNAS Board of Directors for many years. She served as President in 2005 and 2006 – the second woman and the second American Indian – and remained on the Board as Senior Advisor for many years.  She now serves on COSA, SACNAS’ Committee of Senior Advisors. Earlier she was involved in many significant national Indian Education Activities.

She has had a number of significant national appointments including: the National Academies Policy and Global Affairs Division Committee (2012-2018); Committee on Equality of Opportunity in Science and Engineering (CEOSE), congressionally mandated NSF Committee that reports biannually to congress (2006-2012); the National Academy of Sciences, Fellowship Office Advisory Committee (2009-2011); the National Research Council, Committee on Assessment for NIH Minority Research/Training Programs, III (2001-2004); NIH National Institutes of General Medical Science, National Advisory Research Resources Council (1982-1986); Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Board of Directors (1977-1985).

2018 - Jedidah Isler, Ph.D.

Dr. Jedidah Isler will begin as an Assistant Professor of Astronomy this fall at Dartmouth College and is currently a NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in Astrophysics at Vanderbilt University, where she studies hyperactive, supermassive black holes. Her scientific research explores the physics of blazars – supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies that create particle jets moving at nearly the speed of light. She is a proud alumna of Norfolk State University’s Dozoretz National Institute for Mathematics and Applied Sciences (DNIMAS) and the Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program. In 2014, she became the first African American woman to receive her Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Yale University. Her innovative and award-winning research has been supported by fellowships from the NSF, NASA, and the Ford Foundation and she has appeared on numerous radio and television programs including NPR’s All Things Considered and TED Radio Hour, DeRay McKesson’s Pod Save the People, the Science Channel’s How the Universe Works and the 2016 National Geographic feature miniseries MARS. A 2015 TED fellow and a 2017 Senior TED Fellow, more than 2.5 million viewers have watched her TED talks.

Dr. Isler is an outspoken advocate of inclusion and empowerment in STEM fields and is the creator and host of Vanguard: Conversations with Women of Color in STEM (#VanguardSTEM). Her non-profit organization, STEM en Route to Change (The SeRCH Foundation, Inc.), is dedicated to using STEM as a pathway for social justice and has developed a variety of initiatives including the #VanguardSTEM online platform and web series. Isler has also worked with museums, libraries, planetariums, schools, and universities across the country to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders. In 2015, she served as a co-organizer of the NSF-funded Inclusive Astronomy conference and later presented the conference’s recommendations to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Currently she serves on the American Institute of Physics National Task Force to Elevate African American Representation in Undergraduate Physics & Astronomy. Her advocacy and research have won her recognition as a Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow by the National Academy of Science (2015), a National Geographic Emerging Explorer (2016), and one of The Root Magazine’s 100 Most Influential African Americans (2016).



2017 - May Berenabum, Ph.D.

It was difficult for the committee to decide which award to give Dr. Berenbaum. She is extremely accomplished in her field and she qualifies for both awards. I wish we could give her both! However, we decided to award her the Jean E. Simmons Award for Science Education Honorary Membership for the following reasons. First, she has been on the List of Excellent Teachers at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign consistently over the past 35 years. Second, she has received many education excellence awards over her long career. Third, she has mentored numerous undergraduate and graduate students who have become very successful in multiple fields. And fourth, she is a strong proponent for public outreach and science communication; she has been featured on several local and national radio shows, including Fresh Air with Terry Gross and Science Friday, has been involved in numerous community lectures, teaching in public schools, running an Insect Fear Film Festival, just to name a few, and has written a number of book that are accessible to the public.

These are just a few of things she does, in addition to her fantastic research, to engage the public with her science. It is very easy to award someone for research when we have so many fantastic women researchers in our membership and beyond, but to have someone nominated that also has a substantial track record in education and public outreach is phenomenal. Today, with science communication and public outreach being so important to all of our fields, the committee thought we should award this honor to someone who excels at just that. We are excited to add Dr. May Berenbaum, a National Medal of Science winner, to our ranks as an honorary member.



2016 - Mildred Dresselhaus, Ph.D
Materials Science

Dr. Desselhaus received her Bachelor's of Arts in 1951 from Hunter College, followed by finishing a Fulbright Fellowship at Cambridge University in 1952. She went on to receive her Master’s of Arts in 1953 at Radcliffe College then her PhD at the University of Chicago in 1958. She completed a fellowship (1956-1957) at the Bell Telephone Laboratory during her years in graduate school. She has held many positions, including international appointments, during her tenure starting in 1958 as a NSF postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University and ending with Chair of the American Institute of Physics Governing Board from 2003-2008. Dr. Dresselhaus was professor Emerita in the Physics and Electrical Engineering departments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She held many honors and received awards that total to almost 100, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014. Her activities have included membership, fellowships, board of directors, chairs, and editor positions at many prestigious organizations. She also hold seven patents. Her publication list totals 1,559 articles. Her work includes research on carbon nanotubes, bismuth, nanowires, and low dimensional thermoelectricity.



2016 - Rita Valentino, Ph.D.

Dr. Rita Valentino received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Rhode Island in 1975 and her PhD from the University of Michigan in 1980. She completed two postdocs, one from 1980-1981 at the University of North Carolina and the second from 1981-1983 at The Salk Institute. She has successfully navigated the tenure track and is now full professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. She has numerous awards and honors as well as involvement in several key societies. She has been editing for six separate journals, including her current position of Editor-in-Chief of Neurobiology of Stress. She has 146 research publications as well as 10 reviews publications and 16 additional publications which include editorials and book chapters. Her major field of study is how certain stressors can lead to psychiatric or medical disorders, focusing on neurohormonal and neurochemical substrates.

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