Hall of Fame Member Biographies

David Sabatini

Born in Peoria, Illinois, David A. Sabatini grew up in the nearby town of Jacksonville, earning his high school diploma there in 1976. Part of the first generation of his family to attend college, he followed his older brother to the University of Illinois–Urbana, completing his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1980.

After working for the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad in Chicago and Memphis—where he met his future wife, Frances—Dr. Sabatini completed a master’s degree from Memphis State University in 1985, followed by a Ph.D. in civil engineering at Iowa State four years later. Soon after completing his doctorate, he accepted a position as assistant professor of civil engineering and environmental science at the University of Oklahoma. Promoted to full professor in 1999, Dr. Sabatini was named the Sun Oil Company Endowed Chair in 2002 and the David Ross Boyd Professor in 2005.

A dedicated researcher, Dr. Sabatini became the Associate Director of the Institute for Applied Surfactant Research in 2000, and, in 2005, co-founded OU’s WaTER (Water Technologies for Emerging Regions) Center. Since its establishment, the WaTER Center has gained international recognition for its research, undergraduate minor, and biennial international conference and prize. The center focuses on bringing clean water and sanitation to all people, both in the developing world and in emerging regions of our own country.

Dr. Sabatini’s research has made pioneering contributions in the areas of understanding subsurface contaminant transport and developing innovative remediation technologies as well as sustainable technologies for water treatment in developing countries. He has coauthored or edited four books and 200 academic articles that have over 10,000 citations. His research has received over $12 million in funding from federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Education. His many research awards include the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Illinois in 2012, the Award of Merit for Work in Developing Countries from the Water Environment Federation in 2011, the Japanese Oil Chemist Society Lectureship Award in 2006, the National Ground Water Association Ground Water Remediation Project Award in 2006, and the 1997-1998 senior Fulbright Scholar award at the Universitaet Tuebingen, Germany.

Throughout his career, Dr. Sabatini has sought to integrate his teaching, research, and service missions, always emphasizing what will best help the student. Using real-world problems to encourage their curiosity, he combines participatory learning, teamwork, and peer-mentoring in an award-winning style. While at OU, he has taught 23 different courses and published seven peer-reviewed articles on education innovations. He has also mentored 31 master’s students and 15 doctoral ones, as well as helping establish a cooperative environmental graduate program at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, graduating 10 Ph.D. students there since 2001. In 2008, he received the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professor’s Wiley Outstanding Educator Award, followed by the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence in 2010. Other service awards include the International Service Award from the International Association of Hydrogeologists in 2017, the Steven K. Dentel Award for Global Outreach from the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors in 2016, as well as the David L. Boren Award for Outstanding Global Engagement and the Pursuit of Excellence Faculty Award from OU, both in 2015.