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OU Professor Receives Nat'l Award in Applied, Environmental Microbiology

OU Professor Receives Nat'l Award in Applied, Environmental Microbiology

University of Oklahoma Professor Joseph M. Suflita will receive a national award, the 2016 DuPont Industrial Biosciences Award in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, at the American Society for Microbiology annual meeting in Boston.

Suflita is George Lynn Cross Research Professor and MAPCO Professor of Environmental Quality in the OU College of Arts and Sciences and the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy,

“The University of Oklahoma is extremely proud that Professor Suflita, one of OU’s most outstanding researchers, has been named as the recipient of this prestigious national award,” said OU President David L. Boren.

The prestigious DuPont award is a national award recognizing an individual for distinguished achievement in research and development in applied (non-clinical) and environmental microbiology.  Suflita will present a special lecture titled, “Reflections on the Anthropocene, Societal Energy Challenges and a Career in Microbiology” at the annual meeting.

“I am humbled and extremely pleased by this recognition.  It was a complete surprise to me, and I fully recognize this is not an individual award.  I will always be extremely grateful to all the students, post-doctoral graduates and collaborators who worked with me over the years and to OU for allowing me to develop my career and the Institute for Energy and the Environment,” Suflita said.

A unifying thread in Suflita’s research is his concern over the fate of important environmental pollutants, the rates of contaminant biodegradation, the ecological boundaries of the metabolism and the types of microorganisms that catalyze critical transformations.  His early work proved instrumental for understanding the role of anaerobic microorganisms in governing the fate of halogenated organic contaminants, while his later work focused on the anaerobic bioremediation of spilt hydrocarbons—a process previously dismissed as environmentally insignificant.

In recent years, Suflita has sought to prevent the environmental release of hazardous materials through a greater understanding of the biocorrosion processes throughout the energy infrastructure.  His work helped lead to the recognition that the complex anaerobic consortia responsible for the mineralization of hydrocarbons can result in the formation of substantial quantities of methane—a process that is important for clean energy recovery and addressing global atmospheric emission issues. 

Currently, Suflita directs three institutes and centers at OU, including the Institute for Energy and the Environment, the Biocorrosion Center—a research consortium designed to explore fundamental issues surrounding the diagnosis and mitigation of corrosion in the upstream oil and gas sector—and a multi-institutional, Multidisciplinary University Research Institute, which focuses on downstream energy issues and seeks to understand the environmental compatibility of biofuel formulations.  

Suflita served as an associate editor for the leading interdisciplinary environmental journal in the world—Environmental Science and Technology—until December 2015.  He is a member of the American Society for Microbiology, American Academy of Microbiology, American Chemical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation Society and Sigma Xi.

Suflita joined the OU faculty in 1982 following his post-doctoral and Ph.D. studies at Michigan State University and Penn State University, respectively.