Member Since 2009
Jennifer Biddle
Professor, University of Delaware
Honors and Awards

Joanne Simpson Medal
Received December 2021

Dr. Jennifer Biddle exemplifies the ethosof the Joanne Simpson medal, as she is an exceptional midcareer scientist whose research has transformed our understanding of microbial life in the marine subsurface, and she is an inspiring and dedicated leader and servant in transdisciplinary scientific societies. The marine deep biosphere field and the AGU Biogeosciences community as a whole are definitely better because of her creativity, leadership, gumption and willingness to serve. 

Dr. Biddle has been a visionary leader in marine subsurface research since the early days of her career, starting with her graduate school adaptation and advancement of biomolecular techniques to reveal the previously hidden “deep biosphere” in marine sediments. Her team was the first to construct a metagenome from marine sediments, which moved beyond simple taxonomy or targeted functional approaches to reveal the broader genomic potential of the many uncultivated microbes in this habitat. While constructing metagenomes from environmental samples is now commonplace, this bulk DNA sequencing technique was groundbreaking in its time and opened the door to new understanding. Not content to stop there, Dr. Biddle’s team also created the first metatranscriptome from the marine subsurface to reveal gene expression. These are a few key examples of Dr. Biddle’s leadership, which blazed a trail of new approaches for marine subsurface research that the community has benefited from greatly. 

Dr. Biddle is also a positive role model in terms of her service and leadership. She has contributed years of service to the international scientific ocean drilling program and to the AGU Biogeosciences section, volunteering pretenure to help organize the AGU Fall Meeting for 3 years in a row. Jen was one of the first in our field to recognize the power of internet conferencing platforms to create inclusive scientific gatherings while helping to speed the advancement of science. Her co-creation of the virtual “MicroSeminar” in 2014 revolutionized international participation in virtual meetings way ahead of its time. Likewise, Jen has a well-earned reputation as an unflagging supporter of inclusion and fairness in science, including recent work documenting the unequal impact of the pandemic on academic mothers and offering clear suggestions for institutional changes to remove obstacles to level the playing field. Science would be a much better place if everyone were as giving, empathetic and supportive as she is.

— Beth N. Orcutt 

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences 

East Boothbay, Maine

It is an honor to receive this award, and I am humbled and grateful for my colleagues’ support and recognition. I sincerely thank Beth Orcutt. She cares deeply about her colleagues and fights for equity in science, and her support means a lot to me. I would also like to thank Peter Girguis, Jennifer Glass and Kelly Wrighton for supporting my nomination. I am so thankful for the wonderful colleagues I get to explore the world with. I appreciate the acknowledgement of my efforts to diversify and unite science, within and across disciplines. I would not be where I am today without the support of amazing, inspiring professors at Rutgers University, Pennsylvania State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I’ve walked a path through science that was not always well planned, but along the way, I have worked alongside excellent people, and with a bit of luck, find myself in a position where I can achieve the most rewarding part of science, helping others succeed and thrive in science. I particularly enjoy opening doors for others. I have to thank all of my students, technicians and postdocs, who have been so inspiring to work with. I share this award with them, as our science is a team effort and I am honored that we are able to work together on it. I also thank my friends and family for their support, particularly my husband, who has supported me through my academic journey. Throughout this journey I’ve also been supported by a cast of thousands through social networks, and I have to acknowledge the role that the modern-day networking has had in my life. These networks connected me with other academic parents, with other women who are the minority in their departments and with new collaborators. We have all raised each other’s spirits at different times and helped each other move forward in a system that wasn’t designed for us. I look forward to continuing change in the academy to make sure it is a place where all are welcomed and rewarded for their talents. — Jennifer Biddle  University of Delaware Newark, Delaware
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Union Fellow
Received December 2021