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The American Society for Microbiology honors Bess B. Ward

Washington, DCJune 6, 2012 Bess B. Ward, William J. Sinclair Professor of Geosciences, Department of Geosciences, Princeton University, has been presented the 2012 Procter & Gamble Award in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. This award recognizes distinguished achievement in research and development in applied and environmental microbiology. "Ward has had a sustained and substantial influence on the field of marine microbiology over her career, directly through her seminal efforts defining the physiology, biogeochemistry, and molecular phylogeny of organisms responsible for key processes in the marine N cycle, nitrate reduction, nitrification, and denitrification, as well as through her mentoring and leadership," explains nominator Douglas Capone, University of Southern California. "She is currently in hot pursuit of factors which control the activity of denitrifiers and anaerobic ammonium oxidizers in the major oxygen minimum zones of the world's oceans."

Ward received her undergraduate degree in zoology at Michigan State University, Lansing, and her Ph.D. in Oceanography from the University of Washington, Seattle. Ward then held postdoctoral and research scientist positions at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. She next joined the Department of Ocean Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz as an assistant professor, becoming department chair after six years, before moving to Princeton. She has been department chair at Princeton for six years, in a department with research specialties spanning the entire range from theoretical seismology to her own work in marine microbiology.

Ward's research centers on the biogeochemistry of nitrogen in the marine environment. A major and continuing theme in her work is nitrification, a topic that has seen many important developments in recent years. She continues to work on nitrogen cycling in low oxygen regions of the world ocean. Her other studies include methane oxidation and N utilization by phytoplankton. Her signature approach is to combine biogeochemical approaches, typified by the use of stable isotopes to quantify the rates of nitrogen cycle processes, with molecular biological methods in order to link the rates of important transformations with the microbes that are responsible for them. "Her approach has been to simultaneously quantify the relevant fluxes using tracer techniques and the diversity and distribution of the operative microorganisms and functional enzymes," described Francois Morel, Princeton University. "Her results have played a central role in forging our present understanding of the marine N cycle."

"Ward has had an extremely productive and influential career," says Allan Devol of the University of Washington. A Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, Ward has also been honored with Fellowship in the American Geophysical Union and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1997, she was the first women and the youngest person to receive the G. Evelyn Hutchinson Medal from the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography. She has authored over 100 research papers and book chapters, and has edited volumes and served on journal editorial boards. "In addition, Ward has provided exceptional mentoring to her students and post-docs, many of whom have significant careers of their own," says Devol.

"In my view, the caliber of Ward's work, which has always been very high, keeps increasingas seen in her elegant recent paper in Nature quantifying the relative importance of dentrification and anammox in the oxygen minimum zones of the Pacific and Indian oceans. She is clearly a leader in environmental microbiologyone who richly deserves this recognition," summarizes Morel.


Contact: Garth Hogan
American Society for Microbiology

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