Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Environmental science professor receives award for scientific innovations

The Tallahassee Scientific Society has named Henry Neal Williams, a professor at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University’s (FAMU) School of the Environment as the recipient of its highest honor, the Gold Medal Award.

The Gold Medal Award, established in 2004, is annually granted to a scientist or scholar of outstanding merit from the Tallahassee community. The Society selects its Gold Medal Award recipient based on scientific or mathematic achievements, outstanding contributions to science education and public service.

Williams has made history by becoming the very first researcher from Florida A&M University to receive the accolade.

“I feel honored and humbled. I feel very good about [the award],” Williams said.

The American Society also named Williams the 2016-2018 Distinguished Lecturer for the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), a nationally recognized organization for microbiologists. Although this accomplishment makes Williams the first faculty member from a historically black college or university to receive the title, he says the local award means just as much.

“Being the first FAMU person to receive the award – I hope that says a lot about the fact that good scientific research takes place at FAMU,” Williams said.

Williams’ award presentation “Hunting the World’s Smallest Hunters, the Bdellovibrionales: A 30-Year Odyssey,” sheds light on the ecology of the predatory bacteria, Bdellovibrio and like organisms (BALOs), which prey upon certain other bacteria.

His research could potentially change the structure of the oceanic carbon cycle, which is critical to the way the earth’s environment functions. It specifically focuses on the microbial loop.

In the world of medicine, Williams’ BALOs can possibly be used as alternatives to antibiotics since they only prey upon other bacteria, and not human cells.

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