Sparks named Einstein Professor by Chinese Academy of Sciences
Donald L. Sparks


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1:54 p.m., Dec. 21, 2010----The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has awarded a 2011 Einstein Professorship to Donald L. Sparks, the S. Hallock du Pont Professor of Soil and Environmental Chemistry and director of the Delaware Environmental Institute at the University of Delaware.

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The honor is presented each year to 20 distinguished scientists from around the world representing a variety of disciplines and actively working at the frontiers of science and technology. Of this year's 20 awardees from the U.S. and Europe, 13 are members of either the U.S. National Academy of Sciences or the National Academy of Engineering.

“This is a wonderful honor,” Sparks said. “I am looking forward to presenting lectures and interacting with colleagues and students at several centers of soil and environmental science and engineering excellence in China.”

The Chinese Academy of Sciences provides funding for each recipient to conduct lecture tours in China as well as for young CAS researchers to visit the recipients in their home laboratories.

Recipients must be nominated by one of the academy's 113 affiliated institutes and are recognized as international leaders in their fields, as measured by awards and prizes, invited lectures, national and international committee memberships, and publications. Sparks was nominated by the CAS Institute of Soil Science in Nanjing, China.

“Don Sparks and members of his laboratory have made many outstanding contributions to soil science over the years, and it is great to see these recognized in the world community,” said Robin Morgan, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Dr. Sparks is known not just for the results he has obtained, but also for the integrity with which he has conducted science and trained young professionals.”

Donald L. Sparks

Since joining the UD faculty 31 years ago, Sparks has created an internationally prominent graduate program in environmental soil chemistry in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. He has authored 284 scientific publications and three textbooks, mentored 54 graduate students and 25 postdoctoral researchers, and served as an invitational speaker at 84 universities and institutes on four continents. He served as chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences for 20 years.

Sparks' research focuses on how toxic metals such as arsenic, nickel, and zinc and plant nutrients such as phosphorus and sulfur are bound by soil particles and under what conditions the toxins or nutrients may be released into water supplies and become available to plants, animals and humans. He has been one of the leaders in employing synchrotron-based techniques to elucidate metal reaction mechanisms at soil and mineral surfaces. The results of his studies are useful in developing strategies for remediation of contaminated soils.

He has successfully competed for more than $31 million in research contracts and grants and won numerous awards and honors, including the University's highest academic recognition, the Francis Alison Award in 1996. He was named Distinguished Professor in 1994 and S. Hallock du Pont Endowed Chair in 2002.

Most recently, in August 2010, Sparks received the Liebig Medal from the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) for his outstanding contributions in soil science research. He served as president of the IUSS from 2002 to 2006.

Sparks is also highly regarded as a graduate student mentor. He was the first recipient of the UD Doctoral Student Advising and Mentoring Award, and in April 2010, he received the Geoffrey Marshall Mentoring Award from the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools. His students have gone on to earn many accolades of their own, including three Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor in the U.S. for beginning scientists and engineers.

Sparks is also the recipient of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Sterling B. Hendricks Medal, a McMaster Fellowship from the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization (CSIRO), the Soil Science Research and M. L. and Chrystie M. Jackson Soil Chemistry/Mineralogy Awards, and the Environmental Quality Research Award. He also is an ISI Highly Cited Researcher.

Sparks is a fellow of the Soil Science Society of America, the American Society of Agronomy, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geochemical Society and the European Association of Geochemists. He serves on the editorial boards of seven soil science, environmental science and geochemistry journals.