2017 Outstanding Career Achievement: Walter J. Kozumbo

Walter J. Kozumbo, Ph.D., After graduating from Princeton University (AB, 1967), Walt taught science and coached sports for nearly a decade at the Gilman School, Baltimore, MD.  During this time, he earned a Master’s degree in biology from Purdue University (MS, 1972) and another in Liberal Arts (MLA, 1976) from Johns Hopkins University.  Excited by science, he left teaching and earned a PhD in biochemical toxicology at Johns Hopkins in 1983.  His graduate experience helped him secure a post-doctoral fellowship at the Swiss Cancer Research Institute, Lausanne, Switzerland, where he investigated oxy-radical involvement in chemical carcinogenesis and the molecular signaling pathways mediating immune-cell activation.  In 1986, Walt left Switzerland for a position at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. There he collaborated with EPA scientists for five years on an important human lung-cell study that ultimately established the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone.  In 1991, the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs hired Walt to review toxicology studies that were used to establish safe pesticide-exposure levels for humans.  Within a year, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Arlington, VA, offered Walt a job to develop, fund and manage basic biological research programs at university and Air Force laboratories.  After 20 years, he had funded over $200M of basic research in the areas of toxicology (including hormesis), bioenergy and biotechnology. In aggregate, his programs have produced hundreds of patents/technology transfers, thousands of publications, national laser eye-safety standards, Air Force jet-fuel safety standards, and biotech startups. Some examples of his past recognition include the Exemplary Civilian Service Award (for aerospace biotechnology); Air Force Research Lab Excellence Award (for support of premier research); Special Service Award (for management); Superior Annual Performance Awards; Air Force Management and Tech Transfer Award; and Level I EPA Scientific and Technological Achievement Award (for ozone research).  Currently, Walt helps advance the understanding, recognition and application of a very important and grossly under-valued biological concept—hormesis.