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Stephen Giovannoni sitting in lab

Steve Giovannoni to lead Department of Microbiology

By Tamara Cissna

Distinguished Professor Steve Giovannoni is the new head of the Department of Microbiology, effective July 1, 2020.

The College of Science welcomes Steve Giovannoni as the new head of the Department of Microbiology Head effective July 1, 2020. Giovannoni is an OSU Distinguished Professor in the Department of Microbiology with joint appointments in the College of Science and the College of Agricultural Sciences. He joined the department faculty 32 years ago

Giovannoni is an internationally recognized microbiologist whose research on microbial diversity, genomics, carbon cycle and ecology in oceanic ecosystems is globally impactful. His research team is deeply engaged in predicting what will happen as the oceans warm and become more acidic.

“Steve is a brilliant researcher who is doing important work with marine plankton, focusing on the bacteria that oxidize organic carbon to CO2 ,” said College of Science Dean Roy Haggerty. “Microbiology has never been more important than right now, and he demonstrates exceptional commitment and vision. I look forward to his leadership in the Microbiology Department and to the many achievements he will inspire.”

Giovannoni is the founder and director of the OSU High Throughput Culturing Laboratory (HTCL) that distributes cultures and DNA from oligotrophic marine bacteria to research institutions around the world. More than forty laboratories have received materials from the HTCL.

With his new appointment, the impact of his leadership will widen further—at a critical time in the world.

“These are challenging times, but this is also a time to imagine a brighter future and a truly global vision that embraces all cultures, peoples and identities in an atmosphere of shared endeavor and respect,” Giovannoni said. “The Department of Microbiology has made its mark and become internationally recognized for research and education that integrate diverse aspects of microbiological sciences. Our faculty are recognized for their accomplishments in marine science, fish health, and quantitative microbiome science—and for unity across the ranks in the pursuit of better opportunities for all students.

“We will be educating a new generation who have been impacted by COVID-19 and are seeking training relevant to pressing human and environmental issues. We can respond to change by implementing the plans we have already made to expand our educational programs, and by finding support from federal and private funding sources to broaden our work, particularly in graduate education.”

Jerri Bartholomew, current head of the Department of Microbiology, announced last fall that she would step down from her post, which she has held since 2015. She will begin a sabbatical year and then resume her role of director of the John L. Fryer Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory when she returns.

“I want to thank Jerri for her excellent leadership as Microbiology Department Head,” said Haggerty. “While serving in this capacity, Jerri strengthened the department and adapted its programs to meet the emerging needs of today’s students. I know she is looking forward to having more time for research while continuing to help the department and the College be successful.”

A few of notable accomplishments Bartholomew achieved as department head include the launch of the new Accelerated Master’s Platform that gives high-performing OSU undergraduates a jump on a graduate degree, and the creation a new non-thesis master’s degree serves students pursuing data skills and BioHealth sciences. Under her leadership, the department also updated the BioHealth Science curriculum to ensure students receive an interdisciplinary background, preparing them for a wider variety of health-care professions. She also led the effort to revise the microbiology minor to make it more accessible and available online.

“I also would like to thank the search committee and the committee chair, Lisa Ganio, for running a smooth search and for their dedication to filling this important leadership position,” said Haggerty.

The pioneering Giovannoni Lab studies how biology interacts with the atmosphere and the oceans to change global patterns in the movement of carbon and other elements. The research team’s experiments begin at sea, but they carry this research into the laboratory. There, they work with microbial cells and genome sequences to discover new cell types and new biochemical transformations of matter. Their goals are to understand how these extraordinary cells evolved, how they function, and how planktonic ecosystems will change in response to ocean warming.

Committed to inclusion and equity, the Giovannoni Lab works with OSU’s Science and Math Investigative Learning Experiences (SMILE) Program. The pre-college program helps prepare minority, low-income, historically underrepresented, and other educationally underserved students from rural areas to pursue STEM careers.

Giovannoni received his bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of California, San Diego, an M.A, in biology from Boston University, and a Ph.D. in biology for the University of Oregon.

In 2012, Giovannoni received the Jim Tiedje Award, which is given to “exalted microbial ecologists who are recognized for their outstanding lifetime contribution to the field of microbial ecology” from the International Society for Microbial Ecology.