Sobecky to Direct UA’s Water Institute

Dr. Patricia Sobecky

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A microbiologist who also serves as a University of Alabama administrator will lead the campus’s newly launched Alabama Water Institute, announced Dr. Kevin Whitaker, UA executive vice president and provost.

Dr. Patricia Sobecky, UA associate provost for academic affairs and professor of biological sciences, will lead the interdisciplinary research institute formally established by the Board of Trustees in February.

“Water-related issues are becoming a global challenge,” Whitaker said. “Patty is a proven leader and researcher; we look forward to the Alabama Water Institute, under her leadership, expanding The University of Alabama’s research contributions in fresh water science, engineering and policy.”

The Alabama Water Institute encompasses activities of existing research at UA and is expected to expand future UA expertise in water-related research and integrate educational efforts. The institute will also collaborate with the National Water Center — a federal facility on UA’s campus – as well as other universities, national laboratories, state agencies and private industry.

A Pennsylvania native, Sobecky earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Georgia. She has authored more than 60 scientific publications, been awarded more than $8 million in extramural research funding, served as chief scientist for oceanographic research cruises in the Gulf of Mexico, and she is an editor for the international journal FEMS Microbiology Ecology.

She is funded by The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to assess impact, recovery, and restoration efforts following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the northern Gulf of Mexico. An article Sobecky co-authored in 2015, “Microbial Responses to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: From Coastal Wetlands to the Deep Sea,” was among the top 1 percent of most cited papers in its field that year.

Earlier this year, Sobecky was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society. Fellows are recognized for their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

Sobecky became an associate provost in 2014. She first joined UA in 2009, where she chaired the department of biological sciences. Before 2009, Sobecky was an associate professor in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The Alabama Water Institute draws upon researchers from numerous disciplines including biological sciences, computer science, engineering, geography, geology, law and mathematics.


Chris Bryant, UA communications, 205-348-8323,

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.