W. VERSTRAETE is born on April 25, 1946 in Beernem (Belgium). He graduated in 1968 from the Gent University as bio-engineer. He followed a summer course on Soil Microbiology at the Pasteur Institute of Paris. In 1971, he obtained a Ph D degree in the field of microbiology at the Cornell University, Ithaca (USA). Since 1971, he works at the Gent University, first as assistant and since 1979 as professor and head of the Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology (LabMET - Faculty of Bioscience Engineering). His R & D has a central theme: processes mediated by microbial mixed cultures. His team deals with microbial transformations in waters and soils and the gastro-intestinal tract. A variety of biotechnological processes, based on microbial consortia, are subject to R&D at LabMET.
W. Verstraete has field experience with respect to design and operation of drinking water production plants (slow sand filtration), aerobic wastewater treatment (in particular with respect to nitrification-denitrification), anaerobic digestion of wastewaters and sludges, solid state fermentation of organic residues and bioremediation processes of soils and sediments. He has also gained experience in various aspects of pre- and probiotics used in human and animal nutrition.
He received in 1975 the national Intermediair prize for a review article entitled “Environmental hygiene from a microbial-ecological perspective”, Belgium. In 1976, he received from the Comité of the International Association for Water Quality (IAWQ) the prize for the design of a treatment plant dealing with concentrated wastewaters. In 1982, he received the prize of the Technological Institute of the Royal Society of Flemish Engineers for his work in the field of anaerobic digestion.
In 1997, he was awarded the Francqui chair at the University of Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. In 1999, he received the Altran prize (France) for his research about nitrogen removal technologies in wastewaters. In 2002, he received a 10 years’ appointment as Honorary Professor in the Advanced Wastewater Management Centre of the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. In 2005, he was awarded by an international jury the highest scientific prize in his country i.e. the prestigious Five Yearly Prize of the National Science Foundation, Belgium.
In 2006, he was awarded at the Beijing World Congress by the International Water Association (IWA) the Imhoff Award for his contribution in the domain of water biotreatment. In 2008, he was awarded the Francqui chair at the Faculté Universitaire des Sciences Agronomiques de Gembloux (Belgium); the theme of the chair was “Progress in Microbiology”. In 2009, he received from the Chinese Academy of Applied Sciences at Shenyang the “Einstein Professorship” for his achievements in the domain of environmental sciences.
W. Verstraete also received in 2007 the “Excellence in Review” award for the expertise in reviewing papers for the scientific journal “Environmental Science and Technology”. The whole of his work yields at a h-index of 50 and the latter is steadily increasing.
W. Verstraete was co-chairman of the Working Party on Environmental Biotechnology of the European Federation for Biotechnology (EFB) (1989 -1993) and was General-Secretary of the European Environmental Research Organization (EERO) (1991-1997). He was a member of the OECD Workgroup on Environmental Biotechnology (1990-1998). In 1993, he was elected to the Fellowship of the International Institute of Biotechnology. In 1991, 1997 and 2004 he co-chaired the International Symposium on Environmental Biotechnology of the EFB at Ostend (B). In 1994 he chaired the International Symposium on Anaerobic Digestion of the International Water Association (IWA) at Cape Town (SA). In 2001, he was for the second time chairman of this international event, this time organised in Antwerp. He was president of the Royal Society of Flemish Engineers (Koninklijke Vlaamse Ingenieursvereniging) for the period 1997-1999. He is a member of the Class of Technical Sciences of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Belgium. He was chairman of the Belgian branch of the IWA (2000-2005) and of the Centre of Environmental Studies of the Ghent University (2000-2005). W. Verstraete is appointed member of the Technical Commission for Soil Protection of the Netherlands. He is a member of the Flemish Council for Scientific Affairs (VRWB). He is also member of the scientific council of the Belgian food industry (FEVIA). Since 2006, he is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal Microbial Biotechnology (co-chaired by Prof. K. Timmis and J. L. Ramos). Since 2008, he was member of the European Research Council (ERC) in the domain of Life Sciences. In 2010, he was coordinator/chairman of the Multiple Research Partnership ‘Biotechnology for a sustainable economy ‘; project totalling 2.5 MEURO for the UGent.
W. Verstraete has served in a number of international review panels. Some examples are: the DELFT-Cluster and SENSE research schools in the Netherlands, the EPFL environmental study centre in Switzerland and the Environmental Biotechnology Cooperative Research Centre in Australia.