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Kent State Biological Sciences Professor Wins Award for Aquatic Ecosystems Research

Posted Jul. 9, 2012
enter photo description
Laura Leff, Ph.D., professor in Kent State's
Department of Biological Sciences, recently
received an Outstanding Research and Scholar
Award for her work in microbial ecology of
aquatic ecosystems.

Laura Leff, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Kent State University since 1994, recently received an Outstanding Research and Scholar Award for her work in microbial ecology of aquatic ecosystems with emphasis on bacterial ecology of streams and the responses of microorganisms to their environment.

Kent State’s Outstanding Research and Scholar Awards recognize outstanding faculty members for their notable scholarly contributions that have brought acknowledgement to their fields of study and to Kent State.

An ecologist who primary studies freshwater ecosystems, including streams, lakes and wetlands, Leff’s research focuses on fresh water, which is a vital resource to human kind. Her study focuses on how freshwater systems respond to human impacts. Specific attention is given to the interplay between microorganisms and biogeochemical studies. The graduate and undergraduate students in her lab conduct intensive field and lab work, including chemical, molecular and microbiological measures to address ecological questions.

“Research and education go hand in hand,” says Leff. “I first was exposed to biology by my father, who is a botanist, but became most passionate about my studies as an undergraduate student.”

As a member of the editorial board of several top-tier journals in her field, including Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Leff has published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers in various scientific journals, given presentations and invited lectures at many national and international meetings and research institutions. She has brought approximately $5 million in funding for both scholarship and student training to Kent State.

“Dr. Leff is a wonderful colleague who brings a lot of energy and experience to any project, from basic science to education to environmental issues,” says Chris Blackwood, associate professor of Biological Sciences and Leff’s colleague of six years. “We are lucky to have someone here of her stature that brings important issues to students and beyond.”

The lab where Leff works has several upcoming projects, including a study with graduate students who look into the nitrogen cycle in local lakes this summer, as well as an ongoing experiment on factors that influence leaf decomposition.

For more information about the Department of Biological Sciences, visit