Two College of Engineering professors have been named to the National Academy of Engineering — one of the field’s highest honors — for their work advancing society’s abilities to treat water with microbes and monitor the changing Earth from space.
Lutgarde Raskin, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Kamal Sarabandi, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, are among the 106 new members and 23 international members the NAE announced Feb. 9. They bring the University of Michigan’s total membership to 36.
“I have known Professor Raskin and Professor Sarabandi for many years, and they have continually demonstrated inspiring levels of ingenuity and dedication — to their respective research fields, to their students, and to society at large. I’m thrilled to see them recognized in this way by their peers,” said Alec D. Gallimore, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering, Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Professor, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, and professor of aerospace engineering. Gallimore is also a member of the NAE.
Raskin was commended “for application of genetic tools to improve anaerobic biological water treatment.” Her research is built around using techniques from molecular biology to study microbial communities in drinking water and wastewater treatment systems.
She has also developed new ways to harness microorganisms to treat water and turn waste into energy. Her work has fundamentally shaped how microbial ecology-based research can be applied to solve problems in pollution control, clean water and renewable energy.
“I am honored and proud to have received this recognition from my peers, and I am deeply indebted to my mentors, current and former students and postdocs, and collaborators at the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and around the world,” said Raskin, the Vernon L. Snoeyink Distinguished University Professor of Environmental Engineering, the Altarum/ERIM Russell D. O’Neal Professor of Engineering, and associate dean for academic programs and initiatives at the Rackham Graduate School.
Sarabandi was commended “for contributions to the science and technology of radar remote sensing.” The advanced mathematical models of radar scattering that he developed have enabled satellites to measure soil moisture, snowpack volume and how much carbon a forest holds, for example.
Such measurements shed light on the global water cycle and how it changes, as well as how trees and plants respond to increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. He also developed miniaturized radar devices for small autonomous systems for reconnaissance and surveillance missions.
“It has been a long and joyful scientific journey for me so far and getting such recognition along the way is truly wonderful. I am earnestly grateful, and attribute much of this to the support I have received from my students and colleagues as well as my department, the college, and the University of Michigan,” said Sarabandi, the Rufus S. Teesdale Professor of Engineering.
The 2021 members bring the total U.S. membership to 2,355 and international membership to 298. New members will be formally inducted during the NAE’s annual meeting Oct. 3.