Bentley Named Distinguished University Professor

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Robert E. Fischell Distinguished Professor William E. Bentley has been recognized by the University of Maryland as “Distinguished University Professor,” the highest academic honor the university confers upon a faculty member.

Prior to serving as Founding Chair of the Fischell Department of Bioengineering (BIOE), Bentley (affiliate, ChBE, IBBR) helped pave the way for the University of Maryland’s graduate program in bioengineering less than 15 years ago. Since then, the number of participating bioengineering graduate program faculty members has grown from fewer than ten in 2003 to more than 85 today, including several from institutions beyond the College Park campus. Propelled by Bentley’s leadership, the Fischell Department has expanded to comprise the graduate program, two Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Centers, and an innovative undergraduate program supporting more than 420 undergraduate students. Today, Bentley serves as the inaugural director of the Robert E. Fischell Institute for Biomedical Devices.

“On the research front, Bentley’s pioneering discoveries in the areas of recombinant protein expression, metabolic engineering, synthetic biology, bacterial signaling, and microfabrication demonstrate the breadth of his curiosity and the tremendous contributions he has made to the field,” said Fischell Family Distinguished Professor and BIOE Chair John Fisher.

Bentley’s most significant achievements include defining the “metabolic burden” associated with recombinant protein expression; the first uses of green fluorescent protein in bioprocessing RNAi for facilitating recombinant protein expression; and developing “biofabricated” systems for drug discovery.

To date, Bentley has authored more than 270 papers and patents, and has received the seminal research awards from each of his principal professional societies: the Marvin Johnson Award of the American Chemical Society; the Food, Pharmaceuticals & Bioengineering Division Award of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers; and the Charles Thom Award of the Society of Industrial Microbiology. Bentley is also an elected member of the American Academy of Microbiology (American Society for Microbiology), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers (AIMBE).

Bentley has advised 33 Ph.D. students and 22 postdoctoral fellows, 18 of whom now hold tenure or tenure-track positions at top Ph.D.-granting institutions around the world. He has also helped the department forge invaluable ties with industry, and has served as a consultant for more than a dozen companies, including Amgen, Pfizer, and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Even more, Bentley directed the University of Maryland Bioprocess Scale-Up facility for nearly a decade, providing expertise and experimentation that has enabled a broad range of biotechnology companies to move toward commercialization.

In addition to research and teaching, Bentley has distinguished himself through his leadership efforts. He recently championed the cellular and biomolecular engineering activity on the University of Maryland campus and, in addition to his own research support, has raised more than $35 million in philanthropic support for the university and the department.

The university will present this latest honor to Bentley at the Faculty and Staff Convocation to be held Wednesday, Sept. 14, at 3:00 p.m. in the Memorial Chapel. All members of the University of Maryland community are welcomed and encouraged to attend.

Distinguished University Professors are selected from faculty who have been recognized nationally and internationally for the importance of their scholarly or creative achievements and have demonstrated a breadth of interest characteristic of the traditional role of scholar, teacher, and public servant. Three other A. James Clark School of Engineering faculty members were also named Distinguished University Professors this year.

Published September 7, 2016