Official state scientists appointed on Prairie Research Institute Day

By Jacqui Ogrodnik

Kishore Rajagopalan is one of seven Illinois state scientists that have been officially appointed for the first time after Gov. Pat Quinn signed the University of Illinois State Scientific Surveys Act on Aug. 14.

The passing of this legislation officially recognizes the state’s scientific surveys and the roles of the state scientists within the Prairie Research Institute, said Dave Thomas, interim director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center.

Official certificates were presented at the institute’s semi-annual advisory board meeting Nov. 22, which Quinn proclaimed to be “Prairie Research Institute Day” in Illinois in recognition of the new state scientists and the fifth anniversary of the institute as part of the University.

“We’ve always had a state geologist, state climatologist, state entomologist, but never in all that time did anyone establish those positions in the legislation,” said William Shilts, executive director of the institute. “Every state has a state geologist, but there was no official position.”

Shilts said this led the institute to draw up legislation that established the names of each survey and the official positions in each of the surveys.  

The newly appointed state scientists act as spokespeople on matters of fact and policy in their fields for the surveys, the institute and the State of Illinois while providing information on the advances in methods, practices, research and policies to governmental agencies, industries, other scientists and the public at large.

Rajagopalan, associate director for Applied Research at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, was appointed as the center’s Illinois state pollution prevention scientist.

This position, along with the state archaeologist, state biologist and state hydrologist, are new designations.

“We wanted to have a ‘state somebody’ in each survey, and ISTC didn’t have a state position, nor did the archeological survey,” Shilts said.

Thomas, who had hired Rajagopalan in 1994 as assistant professional scientist, recommended him for the position because he was “the most experienced person at the center in the area of pollution prevention to take on that job.”

Rajagopalan has more than 20 years of experience in project management, plant operations, green process development, separations and pollution prevention research under his belt. More than 40 of his peer-reviewed publications have been featured in several scientific journals, and he holds three U.S. patents.

Rajagopalan said in an email that he felt humbled and honored to be asked to serve as the state scientist of pollution prevention.

“However, I will have a lot of support in carrying out this function from my colleagues,” he said. “The Centre also hosts the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable and is a member of the National Pollution Prevention roundtable, both of which have vast networks of professionals well versed in pollution prevention. I will lean heavily on this network.”

Jacqui can be reached at [email protected]