University of Florida’s Pamela Soltis Named 2023 SEC Professor of the Year

A headshot of a female professor.

Pamela Soltis, Ph.D.

Pamela Soltis, Ph.D., a distinguished professor and curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History, has been named the 2023 Southeastern Conference Professor of the Year.

Soltis is the first SEC Professor of the Year honoree from the University of Florida.

“Dr. Soltis exemplifies innovative scholarship, excellence in teaching, and dedicated service, all of which have become synonymous with the SEC Professor of the Year designation,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “Our Conference is fortunate to have faculty like Dr. Soltis."

Soltis studies the broad field of biodiversity with an emphasis on plant diversity. An internationally recognized botanist, she is widely known for her recognition of the importance of polyploidy evolution — having more than two sets of chromosomes — in flowering and seed plants.

As founding director of the UF Biodiversity Institute, she has played critical roles in projects that have contributed to a resurgence of interest in natural history collections as well as their scientific and societal potential. Soltis and her team are digitizing these collections for research and using artificial intelligence to address questions in plant biology. In addition, they are refining the plant branch of the Tree of Life, a project by biologists to document every known species and how they are related.

“Dr. Soltis’s game-changing research has been lauded at the very highest levels in the scientific world and represents Gator Nation in the very best way,” UF President Ben Sasse said. “Her contributions in the laboratory, the field and the classroom have moved scholarship forward significantly, and her collaborative approach has won her the respect and admiration of colleagues worldwide.

“I congratulate Dr. Soltis on her recognition as SEC Professor of the Year, and I wish her the very best as she continues to advance our understanding of plant evolution and biodiversity.”

Soltis is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She has served as an associate editor for seven scientific journals and as a panelist for the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the European Research Council. A faculty member at UF since 2000, she has published more than 400 scientific publications and received more than $37 million in research support.

Soltis has earned numerous teaching recognitions, being named the UF Teacher-Scholar of the Year and a U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Distinguished Professor. Soltis was a nominee for the National Medal of Science and won the Southeastern Universities Research Association’s 2018 Distinguished Scientist Award.

Alongside her husband, Douglas Soltis, Ph.D., who is also a distinguished professor at the University of Florida, the pair has received some of the highest research awards, including the Dahlgren Prize in Botany, the Asa Gray Award, the Botanical Society of America’s Award of Merit, and the Darwin-Wallace Medal. 

The SEC Professor of the Year Award is given annually to one SEC faculty member whose record of teaching, research and service places them among the elite in higher education. Winners are selected by the SEC provosts from among the 14 SEC Faculty Achievement Award recipients.

The SEC Faculty Achievement and SEC Professor of the Year Awards are foundational programs designed by the SEC to support and promote the academic endeavors and achievements of its students, faculty and administrators.

UF News March 29, 2023