November 14, 2007 | By: Carol Lea Spence

An eminent soil scientist from the University of Georgia will join the faculty of University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. Paul M. Bertsch, hired into the position of environmental chemist, is the college’s first hire under the provost’s initiative to recruit world-class scientists to the university. 

University Provost Kumble Subbaswamy said that UK’s plan to become one of the top 20 public research universities depends on the university’s ability to recruit and retain outstanding scientists and scholars.

“People like Dr. Bertsch help catalyze UK’s research enterprise,” he said.

Bertsch will base out of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and lead a university-wide environmental initiative planning process. He brings fellow scientists, Jason Unrine and Olga Tsyusko with him to the department, as well as a third, who will join the College of Arts and Sciences. 

“UK already has aspects of environmental science research and education going on in different colleges and centers,” Subbaswamy said. “With his extensive experience in building and leading interdisciplinary programs in environmental science, Dr. Bertsch will be able to build on these efforts to reach nationally competitive levels in this area of critical importance to Kentucky.”

The College of Agriculture is one of the colleges that recognize the importance of environmental research and education. Dean Scott Smith sees the hiring of Bertsch as fitting in with the college’s strategic goal of being a leader in environmental sciences. 

“As the College of Agriculture moves aggressively to advance our work on management of natural resources, Paul Bertsch will provide a focal point for faculty leadership of those efforts,” he said. “His hire will complement and grow the programs of the Tracy Farmer Center for the Environment. We will be delighted if this high profile hire in our college also catalyzes progress in environmental sciences across the campus.”

“It is an area that the college already has a good bit of strength in, and this could take us to another level,” said Nancy Cox, associate dean of research in the College of Agriculture and chair of the original provost’s initiative committee that conceived of the idea to recruit renowned scientists to the university.

Bertsch is recognized nationally and internationally for his research contributions which include the development of novel, minimally invasive recovery strategies for contaminated sites. At the University of Georgia, he is the Georgia Power Professor of Environmental and Soil Chemistry and the former director of the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory. He has published more than 150 articles in environmental chemistry, biogeochemistry, toxicology and soil physical chemistry and mineralogy. He recently served on three National Academy of Sciences committees dealing with issues in earth and environmental sciences and currently chairs the U.S. National Committee for Soil Science at the NAS. He is a fellow of the American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America, of which he is currently president, and has received numerous awards for his research, including two career achievement awards.

Plant and Soil Sciences Chair Michael Barrett said he is excited about the addition to the department of someone of Dr. Bertsch’s stature; an addition that he expects will greatly enhance the graduate training program.

“His appointment raised the department’s national reputation immediately,” Barrett said. “However, what is really exciting about Dr. Bertsch coming to Kentucky is that this signifies a new commitment to elevate environmental sciences at the university. Dr. Bertsch is recognized for his ability to assemble collaborative teams across departments, colleges and even universities, to address environmental research issues. This is what is needed to address these broad issues, and he is already doing this at Kentucky.”

Bertsch will begin his tenure at UK March 1, 2008.


M. Scott Smith, 859-257-4772, Michael Barrett, 859-257- 5020, ext. 80709, Nancy Cox, 859-257-3333