Martin Polz, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, has been honored with the 2013 Eli Lilly and Company-Elanco Award. This award, which is ASM's oldest and most prestigious prize, is given to a young scientist who has demonstrated outstanding, fundamental research of unusual merit in microbiology or immunology. David Stahl, University of Washington, says, “Polz has made fundamental contributions to the technology and theory necessary to advance understanding of the structure and function of natural microbial communities.”
Polz obtained his Masters of Science in Zoology from the University of Vienna and his Ph.D. from Harvard University. In 1998, Polz joined the faculty at MIT where he currently teaches environmental microbiology at the undergraduate and graduate level. His research is focused on the evolutionary ecology of microbes in the wild and combines environmental observations with genomics and molecular genetics. W. Ford Doolittle, Dalhousie University, says that “Polz's lab, thanks to his own scientific breadth, is the most well-rounded center of research I know, using molecular ecology, chemistry, molecular genetics, population genetic theory, genomics and phylogenomics all with proficiency and imagination.” At MIT, he is a member of the NIH sponsored Center for Environmental Health, as well as the Earth Systems and Systems Biology Initiatives. Polz current research is concerned with elucidating the various factors structuring microbial populations in the ocean. According to Stahl, “while most environmental microbiologists continue to explore and map microbial diversity in very broad strokes, seeking to identify novel lineages and map gene presence/absence patterns, Martin is contributing to a framework that should advance structure-function relationships.” Polz’s other interests include microbe-microbe and host-microbe interactions, and the evolution of ecological differentiation.
In addition to his excellent research, Polz has also contributed to the scientific community through service. He is an editor for Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews, Environmental Microbiology, and serves on the editorial board for BMC Microbiome. Polz currently serves on the Bigelow Marine Lab CCMP advisory board and has been Councilor of ASM Division N and on the ASM General Colloquium Advocacy Committee. At MIT he is on the Radiation Safety Committee, Microbiology Graduate Committee, and the MIT-WHOI Joint Program. He is also a sought after lecturer. Most recently Polz was elected as a Fellow into the American Academy of Microbiology.