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Benjamin C. Stark

Benjamin C. Stark, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology
Associate Dean, College of Science






298 Life Sciences Building | Lab: 266 Life Sciences Building

Office Hours: 

9AM-5PM, M-F


B.S. Univ. of Michigan (1971)
M.Ph. Yale University (1974)
Ph.D. Yale University (1977)

Research & Accomplishments 

Molecular biology, biochemistry and physiology of Vitreoscilla hemoglobin, a novel bacterial hemoglobin; use of Vitreoscilla hemoglobin to genetically engineer improved biochemical properties of diverse bacteria. Discovery of the first RNA known to be enzymatic; discovery of enhancement of productivity of recombinant organisms engineered to express the bacterial hemoglobin gene

Additional Affiliations 

Department of Athletics (Faculty Athletics Representative)


molecular biology, microbiology, biochemistry, genetic engineering of bacteria, bacterial hemoglobin


  • Investigation of functions of bacterial hemoglobin in genetically engineered bacteria
  • Engineering of useful bacteria using bacterial hemoglobin to improve growth and productivity
  • Engineering bacteria for improved biodesulfurization of petroleum


  • 1968 William J. Branstrom Freshman Prize, Univ. of Michigan
  • 1969,70,71 James B. Angell Scholar, Univ. of Michigan
  • 1970 Phi Beta Kappa, Univ. of Michigan
  • 1971 Bachelor of Science Degree with high distinction and highest honors in Cellular Biology,
  • 1971 The Phi Sigma Award in Biology, Univ. of Michigan
  • 1971-74 National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship
  • 1977-78 National Science Foundation Energy-related Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 1988 Lewis College (IIT) Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence Award
  • 1988 Lewis College (IIT) Teaching Excellence Award
  • 1988 IIT (university-wide) Teaching Excellence Award
  • 1996 William C. Staszak award, Oak Park Education Foundation, Oak Park, IL
  • 1999 Person of the Millennium, IIT Millennium Project
  • 2013 Honor Award for University Research by the American Academy of Environmental Engineering and Scientists (AAEES)
  • 2014 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)


  • Sanny, Tony and Stark, Benjamin C. (July 29, 2014) US Patent #8,790,911 B2, “Increased ethanol production by genetic engineering of microorganisms to express hemoglobin”
  • Sanny, Tony and Stark, Benjamin C. (June 02, 2015) US Patent #9,045,779 B2, “Increased ethanol production by genetic engineering of microorganisms to express hemoglobin”


The following are selected recent publications...

Sumer, F., B. C. Stark, and M. Y. Akbas, “Efficient ethanol production from potato and corn processing industry waste using E. coli engineered to express Vitreoscilla hemoglobin,” Environment. Technol. 36:2319-2327 (2015).

Wang, J., B. Davaadelger, J. K. Salazar, R. R. Butler III, J.-F. Pombert, J. J. Kilbane, and B. C. Stark, “Isolation and characterization of an interactive culture of two Paenibacillus species with moderately thermophilic desulfurization ability,” Biotechnol. Lett. (in press; 2015).

Kunkel, S.A., K. R. Pagilla, and B. C. Stark, “Engineering of Nitrosomonas europaea to express Vitreoscilla hemoglobin enhances oxygen uptake and conversion of ammonia to nitrite,” Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. Express 5:43 DOI: 10.1186/s13568-015-0135-2 (2015)

Kunkel, S. A., K. R. Pagilla, and B. C. Stark, “Directed evolution to produce sludge communities with improved oxygen uptake abilities,” Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. (in press; 2015).

Stark, B.C., K. R. Pagilla, K. L. Dikshit, “Recent applications of Vitreoscilla hemoglobin technology in bioproduct synthesis and bioremediation,” Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 99, 1627-1636 (2015). 

Arnaldos, M., S. A. Kunkel, B.C. Stark, and K. R. Pagilla, “Characterization of Heme Protein Expressed by Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria Under Low Dissolved Oxygen Conditions,” Appl. Microbiol. and Biotechnol. 98, 3231-3239 (2014).

Pan, J., F. Wu, J. Wang, L. Xu, N. H. Khayyat, B. C. Stark, and J. J. Kilbane II, “Enhancement of desulfurization activity by enzymes of the Rhodococcus dsz operon through coexpression of high sulfur peptides and directed evolution,” Fuel 112, 385-390 (2013).

Arnaldos, M., S. A. Kunkel, B. C. Stark, and K. R. Pagilla, “Enhanced Heme Protein Expression by Ammonia-Oxidizing Communities Acclimated to Low Dissolved Oxygen Conditions,” Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 97, 10211-10221 (2013).

Ratakonda, S., A. Anand, K. L. Dikshit,  B. C. Stark, and  A. J. Howard, “Crystallographic structure determination of B10 mutants of Vitreoscilla hemoglobin: role of Tyr29 (B10) in the structure of the ligand binding site,” Acta Crystallograp. Sect. F: Struct. Biol. and Crystalliz. Comm. 69, 215-222 (2013).

Stark, B. C., K. L. Dikshit, and K. R. Pagilla, "The Biochemistry of Vitreoscilla hemoglobin," Computat. Struct. Biotechnol. J. 3, e201210002 (2012).

Abanoz, K., B. C. Stark, and M. Y. Akbas, "Enhancement of ethanol production from potato processing waste water by engineering Escherichia coli using Vitreoscilla hemoglobin," Lett. Appl. Microbiol. 55, 436-443 (2012).

Arnaldos, M., S. A. Kunkel, J. Wang, K. R. Pagilla, and B. C. Stark, "Vitreoscilla hemoglobin enhances ethanol production by Escherichia coli in a variety of growth media," Biomass & Bioenergy 37, 1-8 (2012).

Akbas, M. Y., T. Doruk, S. Ozdemir, and B. C. Stark, "Further investigation of the mechanism of Vitreoscilla hemoglobin (VHb) protection from oxidative stress in Escherichia coli," Biologia 66, 735-740 (2011).

Stark, B. C., K. L. Dikshit, and K. R. Pagilla, "Recent Advances in Understanding the Structure, Function, and Biotechnological Usefulness of the Hemoglobin from the Bacterium Vitreoscilla," Biotechnol. Lett. 33, 1705-1714 (2011).

Sanny, T., M. Arnaldos, S. A. Kunkel, K. R. Pagilla, and B. C. Stark, "Engineering of ethanolic E. coli with the Vitreoscilla hemoglobin gene enhances ethanol production from both glucose and xylose," Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 88, 1103-1112 (2010).

Stark, B. C., "Bacterial Genetics," Ency. of Agricult., Food, and Biol. Engin., 2nd Ed., 91-95 (2010).

Anand, A., B. T. Duk, S. Singh, M. Y. Akbas, D. A. Webster, B. C. Stark, and K. L. Dikshit, "Redox mediated interactions of Vitreoscilla hemoglobin [VHb] with OxyR: novel regulation of VHb biosynthesis under oxidative stress," Biochem. J. 426, 271-280 (2010).

Dennison, S. G., P. O'Brien, S. Gopalkrishnan, and B. C. Stark, "Enhancement of aerobic degradation of benzoate and 2-chlorobenzoate by adapted activated sludge," Microbiol. Research 165, 687-694 (2010).

Professional Societies 

Community Service 

  • "Global Village" scientist volunteer in Oak Park, IL District 97 schools for over 20 years