A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
Feb 14, 2008 Volume 38 / Number 4


Outstanding Professor and Teacher Awards 2007–2008

Outstanding Professor Studies Microbes

Gordon Wolfe

Gordon Wolfe, Biological Sciences, has been selected by the Faculty Recognition and Support Committee for the 2007–2008 Outstanding Professor Award. 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 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 Outstanding Teacher Award include Michael Abruzzo, Patricia Edelmann, and Robert Thomas.”

Outstanding Teacher Champions Student Research

Antoinette Martinez

Antoinette “Nette” Martinez, Anthropology, has been selected as the 2007 Outstanding Teacher. Those who nominated her for the award named her academic excellence and rigor, her rapport with students, and her commitment to graduate students as a few of her outstanding qualities.

Professor Martinez came to CSU, Chico in 1999, newly graduated from UC Berkeley with a specialization in California archaeology. The 12 courses she has prepared and taught have ranged from general education courses, laboratory and field courses, and graduate seminars to community venues such as the Anthropology Forum. Most recently, she has introduced students to the prehistoric and historic archaeology of the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve.

Martinez’s area of expertise when she came to CSU, Chico was contact period archaeology (the time period when outsiders first contacted native inhabitants). “As a minority woman and anthropologist, my research interests began to center on the role of women as cultural mediators,” said Martinez. A 2003–2004 Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship allowed her to research and draft the manuscript “Keepers of Tradition: Two Thousand Years of Cultural Continuity.”

Martinez teaches the archaeological field methods class focused on excavations. “Nette has used these field classes to advance our knowledge of local prehistory as well as train the next generation of California archeologists,” said William Loker, dean of Undergraduate Education. “She is especially careful to place a strong emphasis on archaeological ethics and is highly sensitive to local Native American concerns in her work. She has made a point of inviting representatives of local tribes to her excavation sites to ensure that her work is consistent with Native American values.”
Martinez routinely integrates students in research, which allows them to present papers at professional conferences and gather career-enhancing experience. In addition, she has sponsored students for the Graduate Equity Fellowship, the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences Symposia, the statewide CSU Research Competition, the Cassanova pre-doctoral program and numerous internships at the Northeast Information Center.

Martinez has chaired the committees for 20 master’s thesis candidates. Two graduates students had theirs chosen as outstanding theses in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, and one student had her thesis selected as the University’s Outstanding Thesis for spring 2007.

Martinez began her academic career nearly 20 years ago, when she was a single mother and a school bus driver. She took anthropology classes whenever she could fit them in. Eventually, she earned a BA and applied for an Equal Opportunity Fellowship with the hope of being awarded enough money to enroll in a summer field course. One of the requirements of the fellowship was application to graduate schools. She was accepted into the graduate program in the anthropology department at UC Berkeley. “It was a thrill to announce to my family in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that I was now ‘Dr. Martinez,’ ” she said.

Her experiences as a re-entry student with children have influenced her teaching and relationships with students. ”I guess my most recent teaching philosophy has been one of ‘transparency.’ Rather that worrying about expectations, I try to convey the real me: anthropologist, woman, family member, colleague, and a teacher with a lot of life experience, opinions, and biases. I still feel the same motivation and interest in anthropology that I felt when I was a student, and hopefully that comes through when I teach.”

Former student Annette DeBrotherton wrote about this approach in a letter of support for this honor, describing Martinez’s ability to understand how challenging it can be to balance family life and education. “Nette Martinez understands adversity and, having been a re-entry student with children of her own, knows how life impacts the educational process. She knows when to push us and when to listen. She always strikes a perfect balance of mentor, friend and superior educator. That has made her the bright spot in my educational experience.”

Kathleen McPartland, Public Affairs and Publications