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UW’s Lau Receives National Outstanding Woman in Science Award

July 2, 2019
woman in a lab
UW’s Kim Lau has been named the 2019 Doris M. Curtis Outstanding Woman in Science by the Geological Society of America. (Priscilla Wigington Photo)

The University of Wyoming’s Kimberly Lau has been named the 2019 recipient of the Geological Society of America’s (GSA) Doris M. Curtis Outstanding Woman in Science Award.

The accolade was created to recognize women who have impacted geosciences in a major way based on their doctoral research, and it is given in memory of a pioneer in the field. Lau will be presented with the award at GSA’s annual meeting Sept. 22 in Phoenix, Ariz.

Lau is an assistant professor at UW after joining the Department of Geology and Geophysics last fall as part of a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation. She specializes in biogeochemistry, and her research focuses on investigating the causes of environmental changes in Earth’s history.

“I am very grateful and honored to receive the Doris Curtis Outstanding Woman in Science Award,” Lau says. “I have been lucky to have had very supportive and encouraging mentors and collaborators, in the spirit of GSA and the namesake of this award. Using the rock record to understand how and, more importantly, why our planet’s environments have evolved through time is very exciting to me, and I hope I can continue pursuing these research questions at the University of Wyoming.”

Lau is interested in the links between the biogeochemical cycles of oxygen, carbon and redox-sensitive elements. Using geochemical clues in marine sediment, she reconstructs past environmental conditions. In addition to her teaching load, she hopes to expand her research opportunities in this region.

Lau previously completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California-Riverside, after receiving her Ph.D. from Stanford University and her bachelor’s degree from Yale University. She was nominated for the GSA award by Jonathan Payne, a professor of geological sciences at Stanford.

“Kim is a brilliant young scientist on a fantastic trajectory,” he says. “She has an exceptional eye for important problems and potential solutions. In addition to her meteoric rise as a researcher, Kim is a stellar teacher and mentor. She is a great credit to GSA and to the scientific enterprise more broadly.”

Curtis became GSA’s 103rd president in 1991, and her popularity was widespread. She pioneered many new directions for geology, not the least of which was her tenure as the first female GSA president after an unbroken chain of 102 men. Causes dear to Curtis were women, public awareness, minorities and education.

GSA is a scientific society with members from academia, government and industry in more than 100 countries. Through its meetings, publications and programs, GSA enhances the professional growth of its members and promotes the geosciences in the service of humankind. GSA encourages cooperative research among earth, life, planetary and social scientists; fosters public dialogue on geoscience issues; and supports all levels of earth science education.

For more information about GSA, visit

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