2019 WEI Featured Awards

This list features a selection of the many WEI investigators, affiliates, and experts who received honors and awards in 2019 for their work.

James Dumesic


  • James Dumesic, the Ernest Micek Distinguished Chair in chemical and biological engineering, received the 2019 Eni Energy Transition Award, which honors research and technological innovation that promotes the transition toward low-carbon energy systems. Dumesic was selected for his pioneering work on novel catalytic processes for converting plant material into advanced fuels, biodegradable plastics, and more. Read more
Mikhail Kats
  • The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Photonics Society selected Mikhail Kats, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and Dugald C. Jackson Faculty Scholar, for its 2020 Young Investigator Award, citing his “contributions in the fields of nanophotonics and optical materials, especially for metasurfaces, optics with phase-transition materials, and thermal-emission engineering.” Read more
WEI's highly cited researchers
  • Six researchers from UW–Madison and WEI were named to Clarivate Analytics’ “Highly Cited Researchers” list in 2019: James Dumesic; George Huber, professor of chemical and biological engineering; Song Jin, associate professor of chemistry; Mikhail Kats; John Ralph, professor of biochemistry; and Shannon Stahl, professor of chemistry. Read more
he cover of Biochemistry's "Future of Biochemistry: The International issue" special issue.
Claudio Gratton accepting his award
  • Claudio Gratton, professor of entomology, won a 2019 Postdoc Mentoring Award from UW–Madison's Postdoctoral Association. The award recognizes UW–Madison faculty who contribute their time, knowledge, energy, and enthusiasm to mentoring and advancing postdocs in their labs. Read more
Chris Todd Hittinger (left)
  • Chris Todd Hittinger, associate professor of genetics, was elected to represent the U.S. on the International Commission on Yeasts (ICY). Established in Bratislava in 1966, ICY is a part of the International Union of Microbiological Societies and is composed of prominent specialists in many disciplines of yeast research. Read more
Illustration by Ophelia Venturelli, biochemistry assistant professor

Notable funding awards

  • Ophelia Venturelli, in collaboration with Wisconsin Institute for Discovery Director Jo Handelsman, was awarded more than $1 million from the United States Army Research Office as part of a multidisciplinary, multi-university research initiative to better understand communication within microbial communities. Read more
Brian Pfleger and Ophelia Venturelli
  • Brian Pfleger, professor of chemical and biological engineering, and Ophelia Venturelli received a Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to further research on how to use human-associated intestinal microbes to combat malnutrition in developing countries. Read more
Philip Romero and Ophelia Venturelli
  • Philip Romero, assistant professor of biochemistry, and Ophelia Venturelli were a part of a team that received a 2019 WARF Innovation Award. The team developed a microfluidic tool for mapping how bacteria interact in complex communities such as the digestive tract, with potential applications from personalized medicine to improved food safety.
    Read more

Michael Ferris (left) and Chris Hittinger

Professorships and leadership roles

  • Two WEI researchers were among the UW–Madison faculty awarded faculty fellowships in 2019 for their contributions to the university mission through research, teaching, and service. Michael Ferris, professor of computer sciences, was named the Jacques-Louis Lions Professor of Computer Science. Chris Hittinger received an H.I. Romnes faculty fellowship. Read more
Audrey Gasch
  • Audrey Gasch, professor of genetics, was named interim director of the Center for Genomic Science Innovation, which opened in September 2019. The new campus center, housed within the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, is developing innovative technological and computational genomic approaches to address modern problems in medicine, agriculture, and basic scientific discovery. Read more
Reid Van Lehn (center)
  • In September 2019, Reid Van Lehn, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, was named the Conway Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering. Read more