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College of Arts and Sciences

  • Professor Claudia Benitez-Nelson instructs a student.

Faculty Spotlight: Claudia Benitez-Nelson

School of Earth, Ocean and Environment Marine Science Program
B.S. Chemistry, University of Washington
B.S. Oceanography, University of Washington
Ph.D. Oceanography, Massachusetts Institute of Technology / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program

Sometimes you can find a world of knowledge in a single grain of sand.

Whether on a ship at sea for her latest project in the field or in the laboratories on campus, Dr. Benitez-Nelson is always connecting students with opportunities in marine science. “I go to sea. I am in the field all the time. I’m on a boat, traveling to a boat or going to a foreign country,” says the Director of the Marine Science Program. “I even Skyped with my class from sea. I was on a ship in the middle of the ocean!”

This kind of dedication from professors like Dr. Benitez-Nelson allows students to experience research in different ways. “We kind of have a joke around the department about how it’s the faculty’s job to keep thinking about marine science even as they travel. We will bring back sand from different beaches and trips so that students can learn about them. When the students go to their labs, they are literally looking at sand from all over the world that has been brought to the college by their professors and other faculty.”

Dr. Benitez-Nelson also works closely with her advisees, noting that undergraduates have opportunities to go study all over the world. One student recently spent 37 days in the Arctic on an icebreaker for her studies. “We act like a family with our advisees. They come in as freshmen, we take them under our wing, but we treat them like adults. We give them expectations and we really talk. It’s not just about what you learn in class. We want our students to be happy.”

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.