2004 Lecturer | Dr. Donald Sparks

About the Lecturer

Dr. Sparks is S. Hallock du Pont Chair of Soil and Environmental Chemistry, Francis Alison Professor, and Chairperson, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Delaware at Newark. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, and his Ph.D. degree in 1979 from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA. Dr. Sparks began his career at the University of Delaware in 1979 and was appointed Chairperson in 1989.

Dr. Sparks is internationally recognized for his research in the areas of: kinetics of soil chemical processes, surface chemistry of soils and soil components using in-situ spectroscopic and microscopic techniques and the physical chemistry of soil potassium. He has pioneered the application of chemical kinetics to soils and soil minerals including development of widely used methods, elucidation of rate-limiting steps and mechanisms, and coupling of kinetic studies with molecular scale investigations, particularly synchrotron based x-ray absorption spectroscopy. His discoveries on the formation and role of surface precipitates in the retention, fate and transport of metals in natural systems have received worldwide attention and had major impacts in the areas of sorption models, metal speciation and soil remediation/contamination. He is the author, coauthor, or editor, of 226 publications. These include: 43 edited or authored books, 36 book chapters, and 144 refereed papers. He is the author of two widely adopted textbooks, Kinetics of Soil Chemical Processes and Environmental Soil Chemistry.

Dr. Sparks is also internationally recognized for his editorial contributions. He is the editor of: a textbook, Soil Physical Chemistry; three monographs; and the most prestigious serial review in the fields of crop and soil science, Advances in Agronomy. He has edited 40 volumes of Advances in Agronomy since assuming the editorship in 1990. Dr. Sparks has served on the Editorial Boards of the Soil Science Society of America Journal (Associate Editor, Div. S-2, 1985-1987; Technical Editor, Div. S-2, S-5, and S-9, 1988-1993). He currently serves as Co-Editor-in-Chief of Geoderma and on the Editorial Boards of Soil Science, Advances in Agronomy, Pedosphere, Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta, and Vadose Zone Journal.

At the University of Delaware, Dr. Sparks was instrumental in building the soil science program, including the establishment of the Federally-funded Institute of Soil and Environmental Quality (ISEQ). He has been very active in graduate education. He has served as major professor and mentor to 39 graduate students and 18 postdoctoral fellows. He has also served as host to Visiting Scholars and Professors from around the world. His graduate students have been the recipients of numerous awards and honors.

Dr. Sparks has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors. He received the Soil Science Research Award from the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) in 1994. In 1996 he received the University of Delaware’s Francis Alison Award, which is the highest award that a faculty member can receive. In 2002, he was the first recipient of the University of Delaware’s Outstanding Doctoral Graduate Student Advising and Mentoring Award. In 2003, he received the Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievements in research from the Polish Society of Soil Science and the Environmental Quality Research Award from the American Society of Agronomy (ASA). He is a Fellow of ASA, SSSA, and AAAS. Dr. Sparks also has served as President of SSSA and the International Union of Soil Sciences.