Willy Verstraete obtained a PhD degree in the field of microbiology at the Cornell University, Ithaca (USA).
He worked at the Gent University, as professor and head of the Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology (LabMET – Faculty of Bioscience Engineering). Since October 2011, he has become emeritus professor. His R&D has as central theme: Microbial Resource Management; ie the design, operation and control of processes mediated by mixed microbial cultures, more specifically by microbiomes. Willy Verstraete has been instrumental in the creation of several successful spin-offs of the Ghent University, both in Belgium and abroad in the field of applied microbial ecology (environmental technology, food and feed).
In 2005, he was chosen by an international jury to receive the highest scientific prize in his country i.e. the prestigious Excellence in Science Prize, awarded by the National Science Foundation (FWO). In 2006, he was awarded at the Beijing World Congress by the International Water Association (IWA) the Imhoff Award for his contribution in the domain of water biotreatment. In 2015, he became nominated as advisor of the Dutch Water Institute KWR, to deal with the aspects of water and cyclic economy. He coordinates the Amsterdam project Power to Protein. Since 2014, he ranks in the list of Highly Cited Researchers, due to the fact that several of his papers belong to the top 1% most cited papers of his field. The whole of his scientific work totals at a h-index of 80. The sum of his cited papers is about 30 000 (May 2015). In April 2016, Willy Verstraete was elected Chairman of the board of the National Science Foundation FWO.