James BeMiller began a distinguished career at Purdue University when he received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. all in Biochemistry. Upon graduation he went on to teach at Southern Illinois University for 25 years. However, he could not stay away from his alma mater. For the past 17 years he has been a Professor of Food Science at Purdue and the Director of the Whistler Center for Carbohydrate Research.
At the beginning of his career BeMiller studied alkaline degradation in polysaccharides. This work was instrumental in wood pulping to prevent losses of pulp and polluting of rivers. Additionally, alkaline degradation is important for modifications in cellulose and starch which is very influential in the alternative fuels industry. BeMiller’s research has also been used to improve starch’s use in the food, pharmaceutical, paper, and building industries. As Director of the Whistler Center for Carbohydrate Research, Dr. BeMiller has made carbohydrate emphasis a distinguished area for the Department of Food Science. One aspect of Dr. BeMiller’s career that cannot be omitted is the number of students that appreciate the role he has played in shaping them to be scientists.
Dr. BeMiller has been very involved outside the classroom as well. He has been a member and officer of the American Chemical Society, the American Association of Cereal Chemists, Institute of Food Technologists, American Institute of Chemists, and the International Union of Biochemistry. In his local community he has been on the Board of Directors for the Purdue Alumni Assoc., Chairman of various committees within Boy Scouts of America, and an Executive Board Member of the Lutheran Church in America.
He has been extensively honored for his work. He was named the Outstanding Teacher at SIUU in 1982 and 1983. He was also awarded with the Research Award of Merit by Gamma Sigma Delta in 1993 and the Andrew Jackson Moyer Lectureship by the USDA in 1999.