December 4, 2018

Dr. Mark Sobsey

Dr. Mark Sobsey

Mark D. Sobsey, PhD, Kenan Distinguished Professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and faculty member since 1974, was honored with a symposium and retirement reception on November 30 to celebrate his more than four decades of teaching, research and innovation at UNC.

A symposium held from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Joan H. Gillings Auditorium (133 Rosenau Hall) brought together colleagues, former students and collaborators from across the United States and from as far away as the Netherlands to hear talks about environmental issues and to share reminiscences about working with Sobsey.

After a welcome by Barbara Turpin, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, audience members were treated to five talks that honored Sobsey’s life and work:

  • A 40-Year Legacy as Foundation for a 25-Year Legacy: The Marriage of Food and Environmental Microbiology, by Lee-Ann Jaykus, PhD, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Food Science at North Carolina State University;
  • The Sobsey Bump: Tales From the Professional to the Personal, by Karl Linden, PhD, Environmental Engineering Mortenson Professor in Sustainable Development at the University of Colorado at Boulder;
  • Global Changes and Environmental Infectious Diseases, by Ana Maria de Roda Husman, PhD, head of the environmental department at the Centre for Infectious Disease Control’s National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, in the Netherlands;
  • Sinking, Swimming, Floating: My Life in Water Sciences, by Joan Rose, PhD, Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research at Michigan State University; and
  • Environmental Microbiology and Engineering to Address Key Public Health Issues – Or, Why We Should All Love Indoor Plumbing, by Kellogg Schwab, PhD, Abel Wolman Professor in Water and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.

The symposium was followed by a dinner and program of entertainment at The Carolina Inn.

Dr. Mark Sobsey (in tie, just right of center) celebrates with friends, family members, colleagues and former students at his retirement event on Nov. 30.

Dr. Mark Sobsey (in tie, just right of center) celebrates with friends, family members, colleagues and former students at his retirement event on Nov. 30.


“The event was an incredibly moving and magical experience for me and [wife] Edie,” Sobsey said. “The symposium and reception were the perfect capstone event for my professorial career. The day will remain a cherished memory of a productive professional academic life well-lived – because I got to see so many students, postdocs, and other colleagues and collaborators who I mentored and worked with and who had gone on to such fantastic careers.”

To further honor Sobsey, the Gillings School is establishing an endowed professorship in environmental health microbiology. A fundraising initiative at the School will support other professors dedicated to work in the field of environmental health microbiology, microbial water sanitation and hygiene sciences, and/or infectious diseases transmitted by environmental pathways.

“I am thrilled about this professorship,” Sobsey said. “I can think of no greater legacy than to have other Gillings School faculty members continue working in this vital field of health-related water microbiology research, which has been of such importance to me.”

With a lead gift from Mark and Edie Sobsey, fundraising is now underway, and members of the School community and others are invited to contribute. For more information on ways to honor the Sobseys and their commitment to Carolina, public health and environmental health microbiology, contact Matt Cain, director of development, at


Contact the Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at

Visit our communications and marketing team page.
Contact with any media inquiries or general questions.

Communications and Marketing Office
125 Rosenau Hall
CB #7400
135 Dauer Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7400