About David Westenberg

David Westenberg

Biological Sciences
202 Schrenk Hall

573-341-4798 | djwesten@mst.edu | Personal site | Scholars' Mine Profile


Dr. Dave Westenberg is Professor of Biological Sciences at Missouri University of Science and Technology. He earned his Ph.D. in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from the University of California, Los Angeles. He spent two years in Germany as an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow and four years as a USDA post-doctoral fellow at Dartmouth College. His laboratory primarily focuses on the role of rhizosphere microorganisms on plant nutrition and bioremediation with an emphasis on the Bradyrhizobium japonicum/soybean symbiosis. The goal of this research is to utilize the synergistic interaction between bacteria and their host plants to enhance crop yield, plant nutrition and removal of toxic materials.

The Westenberg laboratory has numerous projects in collaboration with colleagues across campus. The lab is studying the antimicrobial properties of bioactive glass with colleagues in material science and engineering. They have been studying the antibacterial properties of oil smoke vapors with colleagues in chemistry. Additional projects with colleagues in chemistry are studying the interaction of metals with microbes. They recently began collaborations with colleagues in civil engineering to use bacteria to recycle concrete waste and enhance soil properties. Projects with colleagues in chemical engineering are examining the use of microbes for biofuel production. The laboratory has been funded by the Missouri Research Board, Missouri S&T Materials Research Center and Center for Biomedical Research, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, USDA and Dow Chemical.

Dr. Westenberg co-directed the Missouri S&T Science Education and Quantitative Literacy professional development program for K-12 teachers and has taught teacher workshops for the BioBuilder Foundation. He has been active in microbiology education as part of the ASM Scholars-in-Residence Program (Biology Scholars) and chaired the ASM Committee for K-12 Outreach for seven years. In 2020 he was recognized with the UMSystem President's Award for Community Engagement and the 2017 Science Educator Award from the Academy of Sciences, Saint Louis. for his work in K12 education and outreach.

He has received numerous awards for teaching and advising including the 2021 College of Arts, Sciences, and Business Dean's Medal, 2020 ASM Carski Award, the Class of 42 Alumni Excellence in Teaching Award and Alumni Outstanding Advisor Award from the Missouri S&T Alumni Association, the Distinguished Advisor Award and the Best Returning Advisor Award from the Missouri S&T Student Life. He was named a Missouri S&T Deans Teaching Scholar, National Academy of Science Education Fellow in Life Sciences and an HHMI BioInteractive Higher Education Teacher Ambassador. He has given educational presentations and organized symposia at local, regional, national, and international conferences.

In addition to his research and teaching he is the advisor to the Missouri S&T chapter of the National Society for Leadership and Success, co-advisor to Helix, the S&T Biology Student organization, and the Missouri S&T IGEM, synthetic biology student design team.


Research interests

Microbial diversity

Legume symbiosis, Rhizoremediation, Quorum sensing

Antimicrobial materials, Antimicrobial treatments

Microbiology education, Active Learning


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      Awards and recognition