Michael Hochella, University Distinguished Professor of Geosciences in the College of Science at Virginia Tech, has been conferred the title of University Distinguished Professor Emeritus by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The emeritus title may be conferred on retired professors, associate professors, and administrative officers who are specially recommended to the board by Virginia Tech President Tim Sands in recognition of exemplary service to the university. Nominated individuals who are approved by the board receive a copy of the resolution and a certificate of appreciation.

A member of the Virginia Tech community since 1992, Hochella made significant contributions to local, regional, and global environmental science through his work in geochemistry and mineralogy focusing on nanoscience and nanotechnology. He is the author of nearly 200 papers and book chapters and amassing nearly 15,000 citations to date. He was also the founder and first director of NanoEarth, a National Science Foundation-funded National Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology that is part of Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science.

In one of his more recent papers, published in 2017, Hochella led a study that showed the burning of coal produced incredibly small particles of a highly unusual form of titanium oxide. When inhaled, these nanoparticles can enter the lungs and potentially the bloodstream. He currently is working on a follow-up study showing the potential harm of the particle to human health.

Additionally, Hochella has just led a team of 14 other authors to create for the first time a comprehensive overview of the global environmental impact of natural, incidental, and engineered nanoparticles. The paper is published in the journal Science as part of its “Tomorrow’s Earth” series. His coauthors include Irving Coy Allen, an assistant professor in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine; and Linsey Marr, the Charles P. Lansford Professor in Engineering, and Peter Vikesland, the Nick Prillaman Professor in Engineering, both in the Virginia Tech College of Engineering’s Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; and Mitsu Murayama, professor of materials science and engineering, also in the College of Engineering.

Hochella has served on high-level advisory boards at the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). He has served as president of both the Geochemistry Society and the Mineralogical Society of America.   

Hochella received the Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia in 2016. He was awarded Fellowship in eight scientific societies, including the Royal Society of Chemistry, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Geophysical Union. He has received the prestigious Dana Medal from the Mineralogical Society of America and the Alexander von Humboldt Research Award to work in Germany, the DOE Geoscience Research of the Year award, and the Geochemical Society’s Distinguished Service Medal.

In 2005 he received the Virginia Tech Alumni Award for Research Excellence and his innovative work led to his being named Virginia's Outstanding Scientist that same year by then-Gov. Mark R. Warner.

In the classroom, Hochella taught thousands of students in 10 different undergraduate and graduate courses ranging over the fields of geochemistry, mineralogy, resource geology, general earth science, and nanoscience. His research also has supported more than 40 Ph.D. students and post-doctoral scholars.

Hochella has been a Hokie for much of his life. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1975 and his master’s degree in 1977, respectively, from Virginia Tech and his doctorate from Stanford University in 1981.

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