Hebets wins inaugural Outstanding Woman in STEM Award

Dr. Eileen Hebets and Dr. Bob Wilhelm of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Photo courtesy of Sasha Forsen
Dr. Eileen Hebets and Dr. Bob Wilhelm of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Photo courtesy of Sasha Forsen

The inaugural Nebraska Women in STEM Awards were presented to Dr. Eileen Hebets of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for Outstanding Woman in STEM and the AIM Institute for Outstanding Organization in STEM at the Nebraska Women in STEM Conference on March 23, 2023.

Hebets is the Charles Bessey Professor in the School of Biological Sciences and one of the keynote speakers at the 2023 Women in Science Conference put on by the UNL Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education and Nebraska EPSCoR. She is at the forefront of arachnid and animal behavior research, having uncovered the science behind several previously unexplained phenomena. Hebets is also a pioneer of informal science education, capitalizing on spiders’ natural charisma to help students of all ages engage and persist in science. As part of her National Science Foundation-funded Eight-Legged Encounters project, Hebets has developed a variety of hands-on activities intended to bridge the gap between academia and the public. She’s driven by a desire to help students use their innate creativity and inquisitiveness to learn in a fun and engaging way.

Hebets, who joined the university in 2005, has appeared in more than 100 publications and has three active grants totaling around $1 million. She’s heavily involved in outreach, having developed youth summer camps that have impacted hundreds of Nebraska students in the last decade, as well as the university’s Community Science Through Outreach course, in which Husker students create interactive programs for after-school science clubs. In 2017, she received the University of Nebraska’s Innovation, Development and Engagement Award, the system’s most prestigious award for using academic expertise to enrich the broader community.

“We created the Nebraska Women in STEM Awards to recognize amazing women representing Nebraska’s STEM industry, as well as the organizations in our state leading the way to reduce barriers for women in STEM,” said Amanda McGill Johnson, executive director of Nebraska Cures. “We received over 80 outstanding nominations and look forward to recognizing outstanding women and organizations for years to come.”

Nominations were reviewed by a committee of volunteers. The Outstanding Woman in STEM Award was presented by Dr. Bob Wilhelm, Vice Chancellor of Research and Economic Development, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the Outstanding Organization in STEM Award was presented by Sasha Forsen, Assistant Director of Bio Nebraska.

“This year’s award winners are perfect examples of how both individuals and organizations can support women in their STEM career journeys,” said Sasha Forsen. “It was an honor having the opportunity to recognize Dr. Hebets and the AIM Institute for their outstanding efforts to create more opportunities for women.”

Hebets said this was the "most meaningful" award that she has ever received.