Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Elizabeth Sulzman, Rest in Peace

ScienceWoman reflects on the sad news of the death of Dr. Elizabeth Sulzman, an apparent suicide (Go read the post and comments. I'll wait.). Sulzman was an Associate Professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Science at Oregon State University. Her faculty web page is now a tribute to her.

"Elizabeth brought soil science to life for her students," said Russ Karow, head of OSU Crop and Soil Sciences Department. "Her collegiality, dynamic personality, and infectious enthusiasm for active learning and scientific inquiry were her hallmarks."

From a childhood of tumbling rocks in the basement and dreaming of becoming "Jaquette Cousteau," Sulzman had always been in love with the outdoors. She worked for a time with the Peace Corps in the Central African Republic, helping villagers build a dam.

"It was quite a challenge," Sulzman recalled. "I had no knowledge of the local trade language and the people I worked with had little knowledge of engineering or hydrology." Yet, by the end of her stay, Sulzman and the villagers had completed 80 ponds to provide a source of protein for the people in the area.
And her science:
Elizabeth is described by those who worked with her as "possessing an astonishing level of curiosity", a "hands-on person", and "one who has leaned the fundamentals of 19th Century Soil Science and can apply it with biogeochemistry, isotope chemistry, and atmospheric sciences to solve the problems of the 20th Century."
What a sad loss for her family, her students, and science.

More: KGW News report

Edited to Add: Last Sunday (June 17) The Oregonian ran a long article about Sulzman's life and death.

I've noticed the arrival of lot of visitors searching for information on Elizabeth Sulzman. Please feel free to leave a comment if you knew Elizabeth (or even if you didn't)!

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5 comments:

Pam said...

What a sad story (and thanks for waiting for me while I read the other post!). A trajedy. I was familiar with her work - through some of my soil science connections that I used to have. Thanks for sharing this.

I just found your site - what a great find!

Linda said...

Elizabeth was the type of teacher we all dream about and the type of person many of us want to be. She never tired of our comments or our curiosity. Innovative thinking earned rewards. I gained alot of confidence in just one class and warmed to her as a person just as much afterward. I and many others are hurt deeply that she is gone. It will take a long time to stop looking for her in the hallways or thinking of emailing her when I have something new to share.

Peggy said...

Linda, thank you for sharing your memories of Professor Sulzman. I'm very sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

She was amazing. Tireless, always up, encouraging of women, bright beyond words.

I can't help but think of what a nurturing, compassionate department she worked in and how somehow, this has happened despite being so loved.

She will be greatly missed.

I haven't posted about her on my own blog since I write anonymously and don't divulge my location. Thank you for writing about her and the great loss to the scientific community at OSU and beyond.

sanduku said...

I have just found the news of Elizabeth's loss, and am speechless and stunned. Bill (her nickname when I knew her) was a complex, enlivening presence who seemed to make everyone around her a better person. I have not spoken with her in years, but that does not blunt the shock and grief of this loss. You will be missed, Bill.