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Rittmann named 2017 recipient of Jankowski Legacy Award

Rittmann named 2017 recipient of Jankowski Legacy Award

Above: Regents’ Professor Bruce Rittmann recently received the Jankowski Legacy Award for 2017, which is one of the highest distinctions a Fulton Schools faculty member can achieve. The award recognizes engineering faculty with measured contributions to education, research and public service. Photographer: Jessica Hochreiter/ASU

After 12 years of advancing research and education at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Regents’ Professor Bruce Rittmann has been named the 2017 recipient of the Daniel Jankowski Legacy Award.

The award, which is one of the highest distinctions a Fulton Schools faculty member can achieve, recognizes engineering faculty with unparalleled contributions to education, research and public service with long-standing, demonstrated impact on advancing the mission and values of the Fulton Schools.

“I was very gratified by the vote of confidence from the Fulton Schools,” says Rittmann, a professor of civil, environmental and sustainable engineering. “Being recognized on one’s ‘home turf’ is special, because folks at ASU know the ‘real me,’ not just a record on paper. Feeling appreciated by one’s closest colleagues is most satisfying.”

Since arriving at ASU in 2005, Rittmann has served as the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on 123 funded research projects, representing more than $14.8 million in research expenditures, according to G. Edward Gibson Jr., director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of the six Fulton Schools. 

“The past twelve years have been a critical period for both the Fulton Schools and for civil, environmental and sustainable engineering,” says Gibson, Professor and Sunstate Chair of Construction Management and Engineering. “Bruce has been instrumental in providing leadership through this period, personally leading research and curricula enhancements, and inspiring and guiding his peers and students. He has boosted the reputation of ASU immensely by taking high-profile leadership roles in research and national committees. I feel that he epitomizes the level of dedication to ASU espoused by Dr. Jankowski and past awardees.”

In his research work, Rittmann has pioneered novel uses of naturally occurring microbes to benefit the environment and human health.

“I have been doing environmental biotechnology for about 40 years, long before the name was used,” says Rittmann. “Now, the term environmental biotechnology is well recognized, and I am pleased to have had a role in establishing this new field.”

Earlier this year, Rittmann’s advances in using bacteria to clean contaminated water earned him a National Academy of Inventors Fellowship, the highest professional distinction awarded to academic inventors. To qualify for selection, NAI nominees must hold U.S. patents that make a tangible impact on “quality of life, economic development and welfare of society.”

Rittmann also serves as the director of the Swette Biodesign Center for Environmental Biotechnology, which he founded to “understand and manage microbial communities that provide services to society.”

In addition to research, Rittmann has proved himself as a leader in education, providing insight into curricula changes and improvements. In terms of service, Rittmann’s efforts to improve not only his academic unit, but the university overall are evident. Rittmann is a tireless advocate for ASU, helping to bring top talent to the university. He also established the Awards Committee within SSEBE to highlight the accomplishments of faculty and students.

Rittmann joins good company in receiving the Jankowski Legacy Award. Previous awardees include distinguished faculty such as fellow SSEBE Professor Sandra Houston, Regents’ Professor Dieter Schroder, Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs and Professor Jim Collofello, President’s Professor James Adams and Professor Emeritus Joe Palais.

Given every two years, the award was established to honor Professor Jankowski’s distinguished 40-year academic career. Jankowski started his career with ASU in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, which would later become the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He retired in 2004, after serving as associate dean of academic affairs until 2001 and as interim dean for one year.

Though not personally acquainted with Jankowski, Rittmann says he is honored to have his name associated with Professor Jankowski.

“Being recognized has deep meaning to me, because it is a sign that I have had a positive impact on people and ideas,” says Rittmann. “I see awards as jumping off points, not as culminations. I hope that an award will give me more leverage and confidence to take the next, bigger step.”

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