SIMB Announces 2023 Annual Meeting Award Winners

Posted 6/23/23 by . Filed under Featured News, News and Updates.

The Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology has announced the awardees and honorees who will be recognized at the 2023 SIMB Annual Meeting

Fairfax, VA (June 23, 2023) – The Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology (SIMB) is proud to announce the awardees and honorees who will be recognized at the 2023 SIMB Annual Meeting!

This year’s awardees have distinguished themselves as exceptional members of the SIMB community, having made outstanding contributions to the industry and Society and demonstrated great promise in their work and careers.

To meet each awardee and help us celebrate them, please join us at the 73rd SIMB Annual Meeting and Exhibition from July 30 – August 2, 2023, in Minneapolis, MN! Winners will be recognized and presented with their awards throughout the meeting, including an awards ceremony during the Tuesday evening banquet on August 1.

You can learn more about the meeting and register to attend at

Charles Porter Award

The Charles Porter Award recognizes meritorious service to the Society as exemplified by its co-founder, Charles Porter. This year’s winner is…

Photo of George GarrityGeorge Garrity, Michigan State University

Dr. Garrity is a Professor Emeritus of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Michigan State University. He joined the University as a Professor in 1996 and lectured in general microbiology, industrial microbiology/biotechnology and exploratory data analysis. Prior to joining MSU, He was a Senior Research Fellow at Merck & Co., where he held various positions of increasing responsibility in the natural products screening program from 1981–1996. As part of his academic duties, he served as the founding editor and Editor-in-Chief of Standards in Genomic Sciences (SIGS, now BMC Environmental Microbiomes) from 2009 to 2018, which served as the official publication of the Genomic Standards Consortium. From 1996 to 2006 he served as Editor-in-Chief of Bergey’s Manual of Systematic Bacteriology, a principal reference in the field of microbiology. He served as vice-chair of the Judicial Commission of the International Committee on Systematics of Prokaryotes (ICSP; 2005 – 2008) and chair of the ICSP (2008 – 2014; as a nomenclature and list editor for the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology (2013 – 2022); as a co-editor of the 2015 version of the International Code of Nomenclature of Prokaryotes. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology (SIMB) and the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM). He is a recipient of the van Niel International Prize for Studies in Bacterial Systematics (2011) and was elected as a Life Member of the ICSP in 2023. He is a past President of the SIMB (2016-2017) and served as the Chair of the Publications Committee (2012-2o16), a member of the Publications Committee (2016 – present), the Audit Committee (2017-2018), the Investment Advisory Committee),the Presidential Ad-hoc Committee on International Outreach (2017 – 2021) and the Nominations Committee (2018). He was the Co-Chair of the 5th RAMC meeting (2018) and have participated in numerous SIMB meetings as a lecturer, session chair and poster-presenter. During his career, he coauthored 303 publications, 121 taxonomic proposals and edited five volumes of Bergey’s Manual of Systematic Bacteriology. He was a co-inventor on 77 US and foreign patent applications/grants. He was also a co-founder and managing member of NamesforLife, LLC (2004 – 2023), a bioinformatics start-up company that was formed to provide web-enabled semantic resolution and indexing services to the life sciences, library, publishing, and intellectual property management communities. His most recent research was focused on the semantics of subject language terminologies, classification and visualization of big data, and knowledge engineering with a special emphasis on their combined impact of these topics on the fields of microbiology and genome biology.

Charles Thom Award

The Charles Thom Award—named for Charles Thom, a pioneer in industrial microbiology and mycology and SIMB co-founder—honors researchers for their exceptional merit in industrial microbiology and biotechnology and for their independence of thought and originality that added appreciably to scientific knowledge. The winner is also invited to present on their work in a special lecture at the SIMB Annual Meeting, and this year’s winner is…

© HIPS/ Oliver Dietze

Rolf Müller, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research

Dr. Müller studied pharmacy at the University of Bonn, where he also completed his doctorate in 1994. From 1996 to 1997 he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington (Seattle), before joining the German Research Centre for Biotechnology in Braunschweig (now Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research) as a junior group leader. Since 2003, he has been Professor of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology at Saarland University and, since 2009, founding and managing director of the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland. He was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in 2016 and received the Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation (DFG) in 2021 for his research.

Dr. Müller will be presenting on his pioneering work in the field during the Charles Thom Lecture at this year’s SIMB Annual Meeting, prior to the banquet on Tuesday, August 1.

Early Career Award

The Early Career Award (formerly the Young Investigator Award) aims to encourage young investigators to continue their research and to recognize and support their efforts at the beginning of their career. This year’s winner is…

Aditya M. Kunjapur, University of Delaware

Dr. Kunjapur is an Assistant Professor in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware. Aditya earned B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Chemical Engineering from UT-Austin (2010) and MIT (2015), and he then conducted post-doctoral research at Harvard Medical School in the laboratory of George Church (2018). The Kunjapur lab at the University of Delaware investigates how to program cells to create and harness new-to-nature building blocks to help address problems in human and environmental health. Aditya has been fortunate to receive a handful of recent honors, including from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, the Office of Naval Research, and the National Institutes of Health. He is very honored to have been recognized by the Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology.

SIMB Fellowships

Fellowship status is a special grade of SIMB membership that acknowledges a long career and a sustained record of significant research and/or service contributions to the profession of industrial microbiology and/or biotechnology. This year’s newly elected fellows are…

Elisabeth Elder

Betty has been a member of SIMB for 37 years. She has degrees from Southern Methodist University, Stephen F. Austin State University, and Texas A&M University. She taught for 37 years at Georgia Southwestern State University, Louisiana State University at Alexandria, and Auburn University. The courses taught included general biology, human anatomy and physiology, comparative vertebrate anatomy, ecology, environmental science, bacteriology, advanced microbiology, microbiology, soil microbiology, and immunology. She was awarded the Waksman Outstanding Teaching Award in 2006. Her research support came through grants supported by the NSF, NIH, NASA, FDA, and her resident universities. She also has experience in developing best practices in a food microbiology laboratory. Betty retired in 2017 but remains very active in SIMB.

Betty has written 37 reviews and articles for SIMB News. In addition to attending meetings, convening sessions, and making presentations, her activities include serving as Chair of the Education Committee (6 years), Editor-in-Chief of SIMB News (10 years), Associate Editor of SIMB News (4+ years), Publications Committee member (10 years), Exhibits Committee Chair (2 years), Placement Committee Chair (2 + years), photographer (2+ years), and Secretary (11+ years). She has written 37 reviews and articles for SIMB News plus covering the calendars and news sections.

With her terms as Secretary, Betty has served on the Finance Committee (9 years +). She attends Board of Directors Meetings along with the Business Meetings and maintains records for these. She reviews and signs contracts for the Society plus supports the activities of the headquarters staff as needed. Betty also attends the Finance Committee Meetings. She has worked with Bob Schwartz for multiple years in organizing the Annual Meeting 5K Fun Run Walk. In addition, she has volunteered to serve on the Archives Committee. She was awarded the Charles Porter Award in 2013, an unusual awarding since this Award is generally received by past presidents.

For additional fun/outreach, for 35 years Betty has volunteered at an elementary school near her home. Currently this involves providing hands-on activities for second grade students. Each year is slightly different but usually includes from 120 to 160 students.

Noel Fong, Nucelis

Noel has been a member of SIMB for 37 years, and in that time, has served as the 2022 President, Conference chair for the 2018 Annual Meeting, President of the Northern California chapter, Fermentation Committee Chair, along with multiple stints as Convener and speaker. She is currently Chair of the Education and Outreach committee, and is a member of the committee for Diversity, Equality and Inclusion. In her day job, Noel is Director of Microbial Strain Engineering at Nucelis, a metabolic engineering company in San Diego, CA. She received her B.S. in Chemistry and Biophysics from UC Berkeley, her M.S. in Food Science, and Ph.D. In Microbiology from U.C. Davis, followed by a post-doc at the University of Michigan Medical School/Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Research. Noel is a career yeast biologist, having been inoculated in Bob Mortimer’s lab at UC Berkeley. Since then, she has worked on wine yeast, methylotrphic yeast, oleaginous yeast, and of course, Saccharomyces. She even spent a year in pastry school studying the practical (and tasty) application of yeast.

Gregory Stephanopoulos, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Greg Stephanopoulos is the W.H. Dow Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at MIT, and Instructor of Bioengineering at Harvard Medical School (1997-). He received his degrees in Chemical Engineering and taught at Caltech between 1978-85, after which he was appointed Professor of ChE at MIT. He initiated the field of metabolic engineering, the engineering of microbes for the production of fuels and chemicals, and has co-authored or –edited 5 books, more than 450 papers and 60 patents, and supervised more than 140 graduate and post-doctoral students. He co-founded and served as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Metabolic Engineering, and served as co-editor-in chief of Current Opinion in Biotechnology. He serves on the Editorial Boards of 10 scientific journals and the Advisory Boards of 5 ChE departments. For his research and educational contributions, Prof. Stephanopoulos was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (2003) and the Academy of Athens and has been recognized with more than 25 major awards including the R.H. Wilhelm Award of AIChE, the Founders Award of AIChE and the ACS E. V. Murphree Award in Industrial and Engineering Chemistry. Also, he won the George Washington Carver Award of BIO, the Eni Prize for Renewable and non-Conventional Energy, the 2014 Walker award from AIChE, the John Fritz Medal of the AAAS, the 2016 Eric and Sheila Samson $1 Prime Minister Prize (Israel) and the 2017 Novozymes Prize (2017). He has honorary doctorates from 3 Universities and has served on the Board of Directors and as President of AIChE (2016). In 2023 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Professor Stephanopoulos has taught undergraduate and graduate courses of the core of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at Caltech and MIT and co-authored the first textbook on Metabolic Engineering. He is presently directing a research group of approximately 15 researchers who work on applications of metabolic engineering for the production of natural products, fuels and chemicals.

Waksman Outstanding Teaching Award

The Waksman Outstanding Teaching Award, named for teacher and Noble Laureate Dr. Selman Waksman, recognizes the important role that educators play in sustaining the fields of industrial microbiology and biotechnology. This year’s winner is…

George Pierce, Georgia State University

Dr. Pierce joined the Biology Department at Georgia State University, as Full Professor, and Director of the Graduate Program in Applied & Environmental Microbiology, in the Fall Semester 2000. The AEM Program at GSU, previously founded and established by Professors Donald Ahearn and Sidney Crow, was expanded by initiating the Project master’s program, where students were given an industrial/environmental research project, greatly expediting the MS degree versus the classic MS thesis. (The AEM MS program was adapted from a few MS-Engineering Projects found in the major Engineering Programs in the US.) The rigorous nature of this program put graduate students into the lab right at the start and gave the students a real experience in conducting research in applied microbiology. Over the course of his 22-year career at GSU, Dr. Pierce directed 54 Project MS Students to completion.

In addition to teaching core courses in the discipline, Dr. Pierce developed new courses in Biological Safety and in Research Compliance in the Biological Sciences (available to seniors and graduate students). These courses provided a framework for conducting research in Biology.

During Dr. Pierce’s career at GSU, the development and maintenance of key sponsored industrial and environmental microbiology programs, provided a foundation for graduate students pursuing a Ph.D. Dr. Pierce mentored 32 Ph.D. students to completion over his active career.

In AEM, all students conducting research (undergraduate and graduate) were expected to present their research, and the AEM students were active in presenting their research at Local, Regional, and National Meetings, and were also active in scientific and research organizations.

Long before DEI became a university aspiration, AEM was noted for its diversity, attracting students from every continent, with cultural and ethnic and social diversity. All sharing the same interest in using microbiology and specifically research in microbiology to solve important pressing problems and issues (environment, health, energy, etc.). All shared the desire to do something worthwhile.

While active in teaching, research and student mentoring, Dr. Pierce also was involved in many other aspects of academia, most notably, serving and chairing the Promotion and Tenure Committee for Natural and Computational Sciences (total 7 years), and serving 9 years as the Faculty Athletic Representative for the University. (In 2018, for his work at FAR, Dr. Pierce received the National Football Foundation’s National Award for Promoting the Athletic Ideal.)

Other awards to be presented this year

SIMB will also present several other awards to student presenters at the meeting in Minneapolis!

The Carol D. Litchfield Best Student Oral Presentation Award will recognize oral presentations selected by the conveners of the oral presentation session and judged onsite by special members of the Awards and Honors committee and others at the annual meeting.

The Carol D. Litchfield Best Student Poster Presentation Awards will recognize five outstanding poster presentations, one in each of the Society’s core areas (Biocatalysis, Environmental Microbiology, Fermentation and Cell Culture, Metabolic Engineering, and Natural Products). Posters will be judged onsite by special members of the Awards and Honors Committee and others at the annual meeting.

President Noel Fong presenting the Carol D. Litchfield Outstanding Student Oral Presentation award to Efrain Rodriguez-Ocasio at the 2022 SIMB Annual Meeting

SIMB wishes to thank everyone who submitted applications and nominations for this year’s awards, as well the members of the 2023 Awards and Honors Committee, including the 2023 Chair Raj Boopathy, for their careful consideration of so many qualified candidates. SIMB members consistently impress us with their incredible talent and outstanding potential, and we look forward to celebrating with all of you this summer at the 73rd SIMB Annual Meeting and Exhibition in Minneapolis!

To register, visit

To learn more about other SIMB awards and deadlines, visit

About SIMB
The Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology (SIMB) is a nonprofit, international association dedicated to the advancement of microbiological sciences, especially as they apply to industrial products, biotechnology, materials, and processes. Founded in 1949, SIMB promotes the exchange of scientific information through its meetings and publications and serves as liaison among the specialized fields of microbiology. Membership in the Society is extended to all scientists and companies in the general field of microbiology.

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