Estella Atekwana holds a BS in Geology (magnum cum laude) from Howard University (1983), an MS in geology from Howard University (1986), and a PhD in geophysics in 1991 from Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. She is now the Department Head, Regents Professor of Geology, and Sun Company Clyde Wheeler Chair Professor of Hydrogeology at Oklahoma State University. Her research interests are in biogeophysics—investigating the effects of microbial mediated processes and subsequent biogeochemical changes on geophysical properties. She also has research interests in tectonophysics—investigating tectonic processes occurring during incipient rifting of continental crust.
In addition to teaching and research at Oklahoma State University, Dr. Atekwana maintains an active presence in various geophysics associations and conferences. She is a member of several geophysics and geoscience associations and has served on the advisory boards, editorial boards, and other professional committees.
- 2015 Eminent Faculty Award - Oklahoma State University
- 2010-2011 Regents Distinguished Research Award - Oklahoma State University
- 2008-09 International Education Faculty Excellence Award - Oklahoma State University
- Faculty Excellence Award - University of Missouri-Rolla 2005
- Outstanding Academic Advisor Award- University of Missouri-Rolla 2004/05
Professional Organizations and Affiliations
- American Geophysical Union
- European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers
- Geological Society of America
- Geochemical Society
- Environmental and Engineering Geophysical Society
- Society of Exploration Geophysicists
- National Association of Black Geologists and Geophysicists
- Botswana Geoscientists Association
Professional Society Awards
- 2016 SEG Outstanding Educator Award
- 2006 Honorable Mention (Geophysics)
SEG Outstanding Educator Award 2016 
Estella A. Atekwana is a natural leader and educator. She has served as an inspiration for many years in her demeanor and her connection with students. She has a passion not only for motivating her students to learn, but also for teaching them how to learn and doing so in a manner that is relevant, meaningful, and memorable. Atekwana has strived to promote training and professional development opportunities for students, particularly in the area of field research. Her mentorship skills in the field are very impressive, resulting in a professional, nurturing relationship with her students.
Biography Citation for the SEG Outstanding Educator Award 2016
By Eve Sprunt
Estella Atekwana is a regents’ professor, Sun Company Clyde Wheeler Endowed Chair Professor, and head of the Boone Pickens School of Geology at Oklahoma State University (OSU). Prior to joining OSU in 2006, Estella served on the department of geosciences and geological and petroleum engineering faculty at the Missouri University of Science & Technology from 2001–2006; on the department of geosciences faculty at the Western Michigan University from 1990–2001; and as a visiting professor at the University of Botswana in 1999. She received her PhD from Dalhousie University and her MS and BS from Howard University.
Mentoring students has been Estella’s passion. She has advised 34 graduate students and four postdoctoral fellows. One way to judge an educator is by his or her impact on students. Over a 13-year period, Estella’s students won Best Paper and/or Best Poster awards 10 times at national conferences. Estella has demonstrated to her students that if they believe in themselves, there is nothing they cannot achieve.
Among the many students that Estella inspired was Dale Werkema of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. “As an instructor, Estella presented complex information in an organized and systematic manner and challenged her students through projects, field experiments, laboratory experiments, presentations, and exams,” Werkema said. “For instance, after lecturing on refraction seismic processing, she would hand out field seismographs for in-class by-hand processing exercises. These types of immediate, active concept reinforcing techniques were extremely successful and commonplace in her classes. While I was her teaching assistant, Estella modeled classroom management and student-centered learning by allowing me to teach and by demonstrating how to successfully manage a course through the delegation of duties and authority. By giving me the opportunity to teach, she challenged my understanding of concepts and mentored my teaching.” Another former student, Kelsey Bufford, wrote that Estella, “champions promotion of geosciences as a profession to minorities, especially female minorities who are severely underrepresented in the field of geology. … She has made a lasting impression on my life and will continue to do the same for all students, faculty, and professionals who have the opportunity to work with her.”
Estella received the 2015 Eminent Faculty Award at OSU, which is presented annually to one person to recognize the highest level of scholarly achievement at OSU. She was recognized for research in two different areas of geophysics: near-surface geophysics with focus on biogeophysics and tectonics of incipient rift systems.
Werkema also wrote that, “Estella is one of the leaders in biogeophysics. … She has gathered together specialists in geophysics, geochemistry, biology, and chemistry to understand the biogeochemical interactions occurring at contaminated sites, which effect physical changes and the resulting geophysical properties of these contaminated areas. … Estella's success and national recognition in this research is a direct indication of her drive to expand the science, to challenge the status quo, and to manage multidisciplinary groups of scientists. This ability to manage and administer a group of multidisciplinary scientists is one of Estella's keys to success as a professor and a leader in her field.”
Estella’s rift tectonics research brought to light the importance of studying incipient continental rifts to understand rift initiation. Over the last decade, she has used her rift research to provide international field experience to U.S. students while building capacity in countries such as Botswana, Cameroon, Egypt, Malawi, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, and Zambia. In 2009, she received OSU’s International Education Faculty Excellence Award.
Estella’s work illustrates the tremendous value of geophysics in other applications beyond hydrocarbon exploration.
Honorable Mention (Geophysics) 2006
Gamal Abdel Aal, Lee Slater, and Estella Atekwana received 2006 Honorable Mention (Geophysics) for their paper Induced polarization measurements on unconsolidated sediments from a site of active hydrocarbon biodegradation.
- Estella Atekwana, Boone Pickens School of Geology, Oklahoma State University. 
- SEG Honors and Awards Ceremony , SEG Dallas 18 October 2016, Omni Dallas Hotel, Dallas Ballroom, International Exposition and Eighty-Sixth Annual Meeting, Dallas, Tx, p, 7.
- Aal, G. A., L. Slater, and E. Atekwana (2006) Induced polarization measurements on unconsolidated sediments from a site of active hydrocarbon biodegradation, Geophysics Vol. 71, No. 2, pp. H13-H24.