Emeritus Professor Willy Verstraete was professor and head of the Centre for Microbial Ecology and Technology (CMET) at Gent University, Belgium for over 30 years. Over this time he has mentored innumerable postgraduate students and staff, and he continues to be influential in science and engineering at an international scale.
Willy’s research has focused on microbial resource management i.e., the design, operation and control of processes mediated by mixed microbial cultures in drinking water production, aerobic wastewater treatment, anaerobic digestion of wastewaters and sludges, solid state fermentation of organic residues, and bioremediation processes of soils and sediments. His research has received international accolades including the most prestigious scientific award in Belgium — the National Science Foundation Excellence in Science Prize (2005). He has received many professional awards including the IWA Imhoff Award for his contribution to water biotreatment, the IWA and the International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME) Ardern and Lockett Award for his contribution to water engineering and microbial ecology, and the Einstein Professorship for his contribution to environmental sciences from the Chinese Academy of Applied Sciences at Shenyang. Recently, Nature Microbiology published a new archaeal phylum, Verstraetearchaeota, recognizing the contributions of his team to the development of engineered microbial ecosystems.
Willy has served on many international advisory committees including appointment as General-Secretary of the European Environmental Research Organization (EERO), and the European Research Council (ERC) in the domain of Life Sciences. He currently is active member of the board of 3 of several spin-off companies successfully established from his research in applied microbial ecology of environmental technology, health, food and feed. He has been on the editorial board for Journal Microbial Biotechnology and Environmental Science and Technology, and is one of the most Highly Cited Researchers, with several publications in the top 1% of the respective field. In total his publications have been cited over 35,000 times.
He is a Fellow of the International Institute of Biotechnology, and a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Belgium, currently coordinating an international Thinkers programme within the Academy on Water and Climate Change Resilience. Very recently, Willy was elected chairman of the board of the Science Foundation FWO of Flanders, Belgium, and was nominated Honorary Fellow at the KWR Watercycle Research Institute of the Netherlands for his contributions to responsible resource and environmental management.