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Barcelona named Distinguished Faculty Scholar

Sept. 13, 2010

KALAMAZOO--Dr. Michael J. Barcelona, professor of chemistry and a veteran researcher whose work has focused on analyzing the impact of environmental pollution and designing remediation efforts to address it, has been named Western Michigan University's 2010 Distinguished Faculty Scholar.

Photo of Dr. Michael J. Barcelona.He will be honored with the highest accolade awarded to a WMU faculty member during the University's annual Academic Convocation, which will be held at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall.

For more than 25 years, Barcelona has been working to develop tools that can be used to monitor and remediate groundwater, and he is known internationally for his work in developing groundwater sampling methods and for advancing cleanup techniques. He is in demand as an expert witness to a number of states, federal agencies and other nations. According to colleagues around the country, his work has led to more effective enforcement, monitoring regulations and professional practice in tackling groundwater contamination and hazardous waste worldwide.

In receiving the award, Barcelona joins just 46 other faculty members who have been so honored during the award's 32-year existence. The award carries with it a $2,000 cash prize and is designed to honor outstanding achievement that is widely recognized within the wider academic community.

Barcelona first joined the WMU faculty in 1989 as a full professor and director of the Institute for Water Sciences. He returned to WMU in 2001 after serving for more than seven years at the University of Michigan as operations director for the National Center for Integrated Bioremediation and Development.

Shortly after returning to WMU, he accepted the position of chair of the Department of Chemistry, and helped make the case for and oversaw the construction of a new instructional building for that discipline.

In addition to his work in organizing and leading research groups at WMU, U of M and the University of Illinois, he led the Illinois State Water Survey for the Illinois Department of Energy and Natural Resources for a decade, and he served for 10 years as editor of the journal Ground Water Monitoring and Remediation. He also is the author of more than 60 peer-reviewed publications and some 95 book chapters and proceedings papers.

"He never gives up. He gives everything he has," said a WMU colleague in nominating Barcelona for the award. "…He embodies for me the scholar-scientist."

An official with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency praised Barcelona's ability to marry the principles of science with the need to apply those principles to real-world problems. She also lauded his ability to empower students to do the same.

"Based on Dr. Barelona's track record thus far, and the environmental problems we must undoubtedly face in the coming decades, I can come to no other conclusion but that he will continue to contribute significantly to the solution of emerging environmental problems as well as produce students who will carry on far into the future," she said.

A researcher at a university on the Eastern seaboard noted that Barcelona's career has been remarkably broad and his work has led to progress both in oceanic environments that face problems triggered by acid rain and in fresh groundwater environments in which officials combat pollution from motor fuels and chlorinated hydrocarbons.

"…Dr. Barcelona has remained a tireless advocate for quality and creativity in science and engineering research and education, often volunteering to work out innovative strategies to solve down-to-earth interdisciplinary problems," the researcher noted in a letter of nomination. "He is one of the most respected researchers in the groundwater contamination field. Ever since I met him, he has been an inspiration to me. I know he is also an inspiration to many others. Is that not the true distinction of scholarship?"

Barcelona earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1971 from St. Mary's College in Winona, Minn., a master's degree in organic chemistry in 1974 from Northeastern University and a doctoral degree in marine chemistry and chemical oceanography in 1977 from the University of Puerto Rico. He served for three years as a postdoctoral research fellow at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which is located at the California Institute of Technology.

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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