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CMU Provost Michael Gealt

CMU provost honored with prestigious science fellowship

National association recognizes Gealt’s microbiology research, STEM support

Contact: ​Jeff Johnston

​Michael Gealt, Central Michigan University's executive vice president and provost, has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

AAAS recognized Gealt for distinguished contributions in microbiology research and for enhancing STEM education in K-12 and higher education institutions.

"This is clearly well-deserved recognition of his contributions to science." — Robert Petersen, faculty member and AAAS fellow who co-nominated Provost Michael Gealt to become a fellow

As an AAAS fellow, Gealt joins a group of renowned scientists that has included Thomas Edison; anthropologist Margaret Mead; and American biologist James Watson, who helped discover the structure of DNA. By Gealt's reckoning, he is the fourth AAAS fellow in CMU history.

"I am humbled to join the fellowship of such esteemed scientists, researchers and academics whose work I admire," Gealt said. He noted that the selection process requires nomination and support by three current fellows, at least two of whom are not at the nominee's home institution.

Among those who nominated Gealt is CMU faculty member Robert Petersen, chair of the College of Medicine's foundations of medicine program. AAAS honored Petersen as a fellow last year.

Petersen connected with Gealt at a monthly social event for faculty and staff, sponsored by CMU's Shared Governance and Communications Committee.

"Having talked with him and learned about his extensive research into DNA transfer between bacteria in natural environments, I was delighted to nominate Dr. Gealt," Petersen said. "This is clearly well-deserved recognition of his contributions to science."

Gealt said the work that supported the nomination is in three major areas:

  • Biochemistry research on the fungus Aspergillus nidulans, particularly its developmental processes. Gealt said a 2016 article in the journal Genetics cited some of his 1970s research.
  • Research on transmission of genetically modified elements between bacteria in natural systems such as waste treatment facilities and soil, including understanding how genes migrate through populations to enhance natural processes such as biodegradation and bioremediation. Gealt said much of the work was performed as guidelines were being developed for use of genetically modified organisms in food production.
  • Supporting STEM education in numerous roles, including as former chair of the Arkansas STEM Coalition; as a senior member of a group that brought the UTeach program for training K-12 science teachers to Arkansas; as a board member of the EAST Initiative, an Arkansas nonprofit focused on STEM Education Accelerated by Service and Technology; and in a group working with the Great Lakes Bay Regional Association to enhance STEM K-12 teaching in central Michigan.

Gealt also cited his previous administration expertise as a director of a school of environmental science, engineering and policy at Drexel University; as dean of engineering, mathematics and science at Purdue Calumet (now Purdue Northwest); and as dean of science and mathematics at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Since Gealt joined CMU as provost in 2013, the university has been reclassified as a Carnegie R2 research institution, graduated its first College of Medicine class and successfully navigated the Higher Learning Commission's reaffirmation process (accreditation).

Gealt also is a peer reviewer for the Higher Learning Commission and is on the Central Michigan University Medical Education Partners board.

He received his bachelor's degree in biology from Temple University and his doctorate in microbiology from Rutgers University.

Gealt and other newly named fellows will receive their official certificate and rosette pin during the 2019 AAAS annual meeting on Feb. 16 in Washington, D.C.

AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science, which will announce this year's 416 new fellows in the News & Notes section of the Nov. 29 issue.

CMU is one of four Michigan universities with fellows named this year. The others are Michigan State University, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan.

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