We mourn the loss of Professor Simo Sarkanen

June 02, 2022
Professor Simo Sarkanen wears a khaki blazer, smiling, with a bright blue sky behind him.

In Remembrance of Professor Simo Sarkanen

Professor Simo Sarkanen received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from King’s College, Cambridge University in England. He earned his PhD in Bio-organic Chemistry from the University of Washington in Seattle where he remained for a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

He joined the faculty in the Department of Forest Products (now Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering) at the University of Minnesota in 1981 and earned the rank of professor in 1999. Professor Sarkanen was a passionate researcher and committed himself to a career-long investigation into the enzymatic basis of extracellular lignin degradation and formulations for biodegradable plastics with very high lignin contents. His lab had very recently developed some first-generation high-lignin plastics with high structural integrity values and had begun presenting these results at international conferences.

Professor Sarkanen and his coauthor were anxiously awaiting the publication of an invited book chapter entitled “Biodegradable Lignin-based Plastics” in a forthcoming Wiley book “Biodegradable Polymers in the Circular Plastics Economy”. Professor Sarkanen and his coauthors published over 70 refereed articles and gave numerous invited scientific presentations throughout the United States and in over 18 different countries.

He was an active member of many professional societies and made important service contributions to his academic and professional communities.

You can find Professor Sarkanen's full obituary here.

A funeral service for Professor Sarkanen will be held at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 22, at Christ Church Lutheran, 3244 34th Avenue South, Minneapolis. Friends and family may visit one hour prior. A reception will follow the service.