Valerie J. Harwood


Valerie J. Harwood, Ph.D., is Professor and Chair of the Department of Integrative Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Harwood is an environmental microbiologist whose research focuses on water quality, and the nexus between microbial ecology and human health. She has made pioneering discoveries about what happens to bacteria when they are released into bodies of water, and is considered one of the founding scholars to use molecular methods to track the sources of fecal microbes in environmental waters. One of her most important contributions helped significantly advance Microbial Source Tracking (MST)—the science of determining the dominant source of fecal pollution in environmental waters. She has worked closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies on the development of MST as a regulatory tool. She also demonstrated “differential survival” of E. coli strains in the environment, and revealed that many sub-species, or strains, of this ubiquitous and highly successful bacterium have very different survival characteristics in aquatic environments. She has served as expert consultant for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, among others. She was selected Fulbright U.S. Scholar; and her awards include American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Distinguished Lecturer, and two awards from the Southeastern Branch of the ASM: Ivan Roth Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Branch and Feeley Award for Excellence in Environmental Microbiology. She holds two bachelor’s degrees, from Iowa State and the State University of New York at Plattsburgh; and earned her Ph.D. in biomedical science from Old Dominion University and Eastern Virginia Medical School.  

Earned Awards