Benjamin C. Stark

  • Professor Emeritus of Biology


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

Research Interests

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

Professional Affiliations & Memberships


  • 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)


The following are selected recent publications...

Webster, D.A., K. L. Dikshit, K. R. Pagilla, and B. C. Stark. “The discovery of Vitreoscilla hemoglobin and early studies on its biochemical functions, the control of its expression, and its use in practical applications." Microorganisms 9:1637-1644 (2021). 

Sar, T., Y. Chen,  Y. Bai, B. Liu, P. Agarwal, B. Stark, and M. Akbas, “Combining co-culturing of Paenibacillus strains and Vitreoscilla hemoglobin expression as a strategy to improve biodesulfurization,” Lett. Appl. Microbiol. (2020; in press).

Sar, T., B. C. Stark, and M. Y. Akbas  “Bioethanol production from whey powder by immobilized E. coli expressing Vitreoscilla hemoglobin: optimization of sugar concentration and inoculum size,” Biofuels, DOI: 10.1080/17597269.2019.1583716 (2019).

Veseli, I., A. C. Mascarenhas dos Santos, O. Juárez, B. Stark, and J-F. Pombert, "Complete genome of Vitreoscilla sp. C1, source of the first bacterial hemoglobin," Microbiol. Resource Announcements 7(5) (2018).

Sar, T., G. Seker, A. G. Erman, B. C. Stark, and M. Y. Akbas, “Repeated batch fermentation of immobilized E. coli expressing Vitreoscilla hemoglobin for long term use,” Bioengineered 8:651-660 (2017).

Kunkel, S. A., P. Azimi, H. Zhao, B. C. Stark, and B. Stephens “Quantifying the size-resolved dynamics of indoor bioaerosol transport and control,” Indoor Air DOI: 10.1111/ina.12374 17 MAR 2017.

Wang, J., R. R. Butler III, F. Wu, J.-F. Pombert, J. J. Kilbane II, and B. C. Stark, “Enhancement of Microbial Biodesulfurization via Genetic Engineering and Adaptive Evolution,” PLOS ONE | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0168833 January 6, 2017.

Kilbane II, J. J., and B. C. Stark, “Biodesulfurization: A Model System for Microbial Physiology Research,” World J. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 32:137 (2016).

Sar, T., B. C. Stark, and M. Y. Akbas, “Effective ethanol production from whey powder through immobilized E. coli expressing Vitreoscilla hemoglobin," Bioengineered (2016).

Akbas, M. Y., and B. C. Stark, “Recent trends in bioethanol production from food processing byproducts,” J. Indust. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 43:1593–1609 (2016).

Butler, R., J. Wang, B. Stark, and J.-F. Pombert, “Complete genome sequences of two interactive moderate thermophiles: Paenibacillus napthalenovorans 32O-Y and Paenibacillus sp. 32O-W,” Genome Announcements 4:1-2 (2016).

Kunkel, S. A., K. R. Pagilla, and B. C. Stark, “Directed evolution to produce sludge communities with improved oxygen uptake abilities,” Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 99:10725-10734 (2015).

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. 37:2201-2211 (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).

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 Rhodococcusdsz 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).


  • 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


  • 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”
  • Sanny, Tony and Stark, Benjamin C. (April 12, 2016) US Patent #9,309,540 B2, “Increased ethanol production by genetic engineering of microorganisms to express hemoglobin”

Community Service

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


Department of Athletics (Faculty Athletics Representative)


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