Biological Sciences Professor Selected as the 2007–2008 Outstanding Professor

Date: 02-05-2008

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs

Professor Gordon Wolfe, Department of Biological Sciences, has been selected by the Faculty Recognition and Support Committee for the 2007-2008 Outstanding Professor Award at California State University, Chico. Wolfe earned a BA in physics at Harvard University and received a PhD in biogeochemistry from University of Washington. He joined the CSU, Chico faculty in 2000.

Wolfe’s research covers many areas of microbial ecology but focuses on microbial eukaryotes, a diverse group previously known as “algae” and “protozoa.” This group, said Wolfe, has long been ignored by microbiologists but is now emerging as the one of the last great areas of biology to be explored. “It is such a privilege to be able to participate in one of the greatest eras of discovery in human history,” said Wolfe.

Wolfe was drawn to science early. “My parents were librarians at the Harvard medical school, and I worked in the Warren anatomical museum as a boy,” said Wolfe. “However, I took a disastrous high school biology class that turned me off biology for several decades, and I turned to physical sciences and eventually came to the Bay Area to work in Silicon Valley. I did not return to biology until I met my wife, Marti, who was a biologist working as a semiconductor engineer to support her family. She showed me the natural history of California, and I took some botany courses at San Jose State University. We decided to return to graduate school to study environmental science, where I was introduced to microbiology.”

Wolfe has published 23 articles, edited one book, and has presented at 30 national and international conferences. He has received 10 prestigious National Science Foundation grants. He received the CSU, Chico College of Natural Sciences Professional Achievement Award in 2007 and the CSU, Chico Professional Achievement Award in 2006. He is a leader in the Department of Biological Sciences, providing updated and new equipment for not only the department, but for the Science Field Station at Eagle Lake.

He has taught 11 different courses, developing three of these courses to meet the needs of the students and to align the microbiology program with national standards. His students describe him as a patient and mentoring professor.

He works very closely with graduate and undergraduate students, including co-authoring articles with those students. “I was raised as a musician and have a great appreciation for the critical relationship between a student and a professional mentor,” said Wolfe. “My favorite teaching moments come from mentoring students one on one in research, the ‘private lessons’ of our craft.”

Wolfe’s dedication extends well beyond the classroom. Former graduate student Patricia Bitterman Brown, who is now a microbiologist with the Department of Defense, wrote, “I applied for a position with the Department of Defense. Dr. Wolfe spoke with my potential employer, and I was granted an interview. In the two years I have worked in this position, I’ve received two substantial raises, a promotion and much praise for my work. I came to this position because I had the necessary skills learned in Dr. Wolfe’s lab.”

“It’s a great honor to follow in the tradition of a number of other distinguished biology faculty at CSU, Chico,” said Wolfe. “Former recipients of the Outstanding Professor Award from biological sciences include Jim Pushnik and Robert Thomas, and former recipients of the Outstand Teacher Award include Michael Abruzzo, Patricia Edelmann and Robert Thomas.”