December 23, 2002

Professor Eugene Rosenberg pioneered the use of bacteria to clean up oil pollution in oil tankers, pipelines and on beaches.A Tel Aviv University professor who pioneered the use of bacteria to clean up oil pollution in oil tankers, pipelines and on beaches has been named the winner of the prestigious annual Proctor and Gamble Award for Applied and Environmental Microbiology awarded by the American Society of Microbiology.

Professor Eugene Rosenberg of the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences at Tel Aviv University for his research on the ecology of microorganisms. Rosenberg pioneered (together with Professors David Gutnick and Eliora Ron) the use of bacteria to clean up oil pollution in oil tankers, pipelines and on beaches. The Tel Aviv team developed the principles and technology for treatment of oil pollution in the environment, using microorganisms and bioemulsifiers.

“We utilized our techniques for the first time eight years ago when there was an oil spill on the beach between Haifa and Acre. And now, it’s now used all over the world,” Rosenberg told Israel21c.

During the last six years Prof. Rosenberg, Prof. Yossi Loya (Zoology Dept.) and their students discovered and researched the bleaching of coral by microorganisms. Coral bleaching is a serious disease that has caused the loss of 25% of coral reefs over the last 20 years. The Tel Aviv team demonstrated for the first time that coral bleaching is the result of an infectious disease and that a rise in temperature (global warming) causes pathogenic microorganisms to be more active. Climatic changes may therefore cause infectious epidemic diseases.

“Israel is becoming more environmentally aware. Young people here are more concerned about the environment and the future, and they’re dragging everyone else along. Israel’s much more interested in Green,” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg immigrated to Israel in 1970 from California where he taught microbiology at UCLA. He is presently professor of microbiology at Tel Aviv University and the incumbent of the Pasha Gol Chair for Applied Microbiology.

“It feels very good to be recognized by my peers for the work I’ve done. The American Society of Microbiology is the main organization of microbiologists in the world. There’s about 30,000 members.” Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg is a past recipient of the Israel Prize for a Beautiful Israel (with Prof. Eliora Ron), the Pan Lab Award from the Society of Industrial Microbiology, and the Sakov Prize from the Israel Society of Microbiology. He was a Guggenheim Fellow and a Fogarty International Scholar.

The American Society of Microbiology, and its president, Dr. Ron Atlas, have asked Rosenberg to deliver the Proctor and Gamble Award Lecture on behalf of the prize recipients. The festive award ceremony will take place in May 2003 in Washington, DC.

This is the second time that an Israeli scientist has won this Proctor and Gamble award. The prize was awarded to Prof. Moshe Shilo of the Hebrew University in 1978.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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