UpDate - Vol. 14, No. 14, Page 13 December 8, 1994 Department chair recognized by Soil Science Society of America Donald L. Sparks, Distinguished Professor of Soil Science was awarded the Soil Science Research Award at the annual conference of the Soil Science Society of America, held Nov. 13-17 in Seattle. This award is based on demonstration of unusual creativity, excellence in reasoning ability and/or technical skill and originality and significance of research to basic soil science. Only 15 years into his career, Sparks is one of the youngest recipients of the award. Also chairperson of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Sparks is recognized for his research in physical chemistry of soils. Sparks pioneered research on the kinetics of soil chemical processes. Using kinetic methods that he developed, Sparks also has made substantive contributions to understanding the chemistry of potassium in soils and in elucidating mechanisms of metal and organic chemical interactions with soil components using in situ spectroscopic and microscopic techniques. Sparks said he credits a supportive research environment for much of his success. "The supportive environment from administrators and colleagues in the college and the University has been an important part of my career at the University of Delaware," he said. Support for his early research on kinetics of soil chemical reactions came from a University of Delaware Research Foundation grant. Continued support has come from local industry, particularly the DuPont Co., through the University of Delaware Research Partnership program. The Unidel Foundation funded the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment that was invaluable in helping execute some novel research on contaminant interactions in natural environments. "This is the most prestigious research award given by the Soil Science Society of America," Sparks said. "In accepting this fine honor, I must acknowledge the superb group of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, visiting scientists, and colleagues in academe and industry with whom I have had the privilege to collaborate."