Max Häggblom, distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, is the winner of the 2014 SIMB Waksman Outstanding Teaching Award, funded by the Waksman Foundation for Microbiology. Häggblom, who was nominated for this prestigious award by his former undergraduate and graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows, received the award at the Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology’s (SIMB) Annual Meeting in St. Louis, July 20-24.
“Prof. Häggblom’s nomination was truly a team effort,” said Preshita Gadkari, a Ph.D. student in the Microbial Biology program at Rutgers, who spearheaded Häggblom’s nomination for the SIMB award. “Former and current post-docs, graduate and undergraduate students worked together to share their experiences in the Häggblom lab or in classes he taught, and wrote multiple letters of support.”
The students and post-docs were guided in their nomination efforts by Prof. Douglas Eveleigh, who retired this year as the Fenton Chair in Applied Microbiology in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology. Eveleigh was the first recipient of the SIMB Waksman Outstanding Teaching Award, which was instituted in 1989.
“Winning the award was well-deserved as Max is an incredible teacher, scientist, leader and advisor,” added Gadkari, who graduated in 2012 with bachelor’s degrees in Biotechnology and Microbiology from Rutgers.
Häggblom has been on the faculty at Rutgers University since 1993. He teaches in the microbiology undergraduate and graduate programs, including the courses, “Applied Microbiology,” “Microbial Life,” “Analytical Methods in Microbiology,” and the summer study abroad course “Microbiology and Culture of Cheese and Wine.” His research interests are in microbial ecology, environmental biotechnology and in the bioexploration, cultivation and characterization of novel microbes.
A common theme in his research is the “unusual appetites” of bacteria, whether in the biodegradation and detoxification of xenobiotic chemicals or natural products, respiration of the metalloids selenium and arsenic, or life in the cold. Häggblom works in his lab with his students and postdocs to explore fundamental projects on the physiology, ecology and taxonomy of bacteria involved in biotransformation and biodegradation of natural and anthropogenic chemicals. They also work on applied research projects focused on development of novel bioremediation technologies for degradation and detoxification of these compounds in soils, sediments and groundwater.
During the course of his career at Rutgers, Prof. Häggblom has advised over 30 Ph.D. and master’s degree students, 60 undergraduate research students and 15 post-doctoral associates.
About the SIMB Waksman Outstanding Teaching Award
Nobel Laureate Dr. Selman Waksman was an outstanding teacher of microbiology at Rutgers University, who maintained very cordial and effective relations with industry throughout his career as an academic scientist. The recipient of the Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology Waksman Outstanding Teaching Award “shall have been an active full time professor at a recognized institution of higher education for a minimum of 10 years or has attained emeritus status.”
The recipient shall have an active involvement in research in his/her teaching field while carrying a teaching load, and involvement in or contributing to research that leads to advances in his/her career of industrial or applied microbiology or biotechnology. Nominees for the SIMB Waksman Outstanding Teaching Award must have supporting letters from at least three former undergraduate and graduate students or postdoctoral fellows who have careers of their own in microbiology or biotechnology.