Arnold Demain’s six-decade career is the springboard for a session on microbiology.

Before becoming a RISE fellow in 2001, Arnold Demain was a top scientist at Merck.
Before becoming a RISE fellow in 2001, Arnold Demain was a top scientist at Merck.

August 2016 – The prolific career of Drew University RISE fellow and gifted mentor Arnold Demain was celebrated at the annual meeting of the Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology.

During a session on microbiology, peers recognized Demain’s achievements and the lasting impact he has had on them. Among the presenters was Neal Connors, a colleague in Drew’s Research Institute for Scientists Emeriti, which connects students with retired scientists in a laboratory setting. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the program’s launch.

RISE Associate Neal Connors notes Demain's passion for mentoring.
RISE Associate Neal Connors notes Demain’s passion for mentoring.

“Arny’s been a member of the Society for many, many years, having made contributions on a number of levels, including as Society president,” Connors said. “So, this session was a bit of a homecoming.”

During his presentation, Connors used the theory “six degrees of separation” to show the bevy of leaders in industrial microbiology who are connected to Demain.

Demain, a RISE Fellow since 2001, was the founder and former head of the Department of Fermentation Microbiology at Merck & Co. He’s also a former professor of industrial microbiology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Moreover, he has published numerous papers and gained membership to the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, Mexico and Hungary.

“His own personal accomplishments are well documented,” Connors said. But, he added, “They don’t tell the whole story. What people don’t necessarily see is the impact he’s had on people in the industry.”

Indeed, mentoring has always been part of Demain’s life—be it at Merck, MIT or Drew. As Connors put it, “He’s doing at Drew the same thing he’s done in the past, but at a smaller venue and with a younger group of scientists.”