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Microbiologist and Environmental Engineer Loeffler Named Sixth UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair

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KNOXVILLE – Frank Loeffler, a leading expert in environmental microbiology and the use of bacteria to clean and protect environmental resources, has been named the sixth University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor’s Chair.

Loeffler will serve in the departments of microbiology and civil and environmental engineering at UT Knoxville and in ORNL’s biological and environmental sciences directorate.

He currently is the Carlton Wilder associate professor of environmental engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he has served since 1999.

“These scientists are raising the bar for the level and quality of UT research, and they are helping attract people and expertise and new economic opportunity to Tennessee,” said Interim UT President Jan Simek. “They are going to be game-changers.”

Loeffler will serve as the Governor’s Chair for microbiology and civil and environmental engineering.

Funded by the state of Tennessee and ORNL, the program attracts top scientists to broaden and enhance the unique research partnership that exists between the state’s flagship university and the nation’s largest multi-program laboratory.

“With the appointment of a fifth Governor’s Chair this year alone, it’s becoming increasingly obvious the program is helping the University of Tennessee attract top scientists at a high level even in these tough economic times,” said Gov. Phil Bredesen. “Taking advantage of the opportunity to bring world class scholars and scientists to Tennessee will help us continue to build in these key scientific areas.”

Loeffler’s research centers on discovering new ways to clean the environment, counter damage done to ecosystems by human activity, and improve environmental health. At the heart of his research are microbes, and he has examined ways how naturally occurring bacteria can either break down or reduce the risk from pollutants including chlorinated solvents, radioactive waste and greenhouse gases. In addition, Loeffler and his research team characterize new kinds of bacteria in an effort to develop innovative technologies from environmental protection to medical applications.

“Frank Loeffler’s work is tremendously important to our future in a world of exploding population where environmental cleanup is vital,” said UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. “His appointment as a Governor’s Chair will not only give him important resources to conduct that work, but it will enhance UT Knoxville’s role as a leader in environmental research.”

Innovative scientific discoveries in Loeffler’s work form the basis for successful collaborations with engineers aimed at designing and implementing technologies that benefit the environment, promote sustainable development, and protect human health.

As a Governor’s Chair, Loeffler will have the opportunity to further his research by taking advantage of the exceptional resources and expertise available at both UT Knoxville and ORNL.

“ORNL has a strong tradition of finding scientific solutions to environmental problems associated with energy production,” said ORNL Director Thom Mason. “Frank Loeffler will strengthen our capabilities in that area. We are very excited to have him as part of the UT-ORNL team.”

Prior to joining Georgia Tech, Loeffler was a Feodor-Lynen fellow and research associate at Michigan State University. He received his bachelor’s biology and agricultural sciences and master’s degree in microbiology at the University of Hohenheim in Germany. He received his doctorate in microbiology and technical biochemistry from the University of Hohenheim/Technical University Harburg.

About the Governor’s Chair program:

The UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair program is designed to attract exceptionally accomplished researchers from around the world to boost joint research efforts that position the partnership as a leader in the fields of biological science, computational science, advanced materials and neutron science.

Other UT-ORNL Governor’s Chairs include:

  • Jeremy Smith, a computational biologist who came to UT Knoxville and ORNL from the University of Heidelberg in Germany. He was appointed in 2006.
  • Howard Hall, an expert in nuclear security who came to UT Knoxville and ORNL from Lawrence Livermore National Lab. He was appointed this year.
  • Alexei Sokolov, a polymer scientist who came to UT Knoxville and ORNL from the University of Akron. He was appointed this year.
  • Yilu Liu, an electric grid researcher who came to UT Knoxville and ORNL from Virginia Tech. She was appointed this year.
  • Thomas Zawodzinski, an energy storage researcher who came to UT Knoxville and ORNL from Case Western Reserve University. He was appointed this year.
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Category: Announcements