UM Provost’s Lecture Series to Feature XPRIZE Winner

October 12, 2016

MISSOULA – University of Montana chemistry Professor Michael DeGrandpre and his Sunburst Sensors team won an XPRIZE last year. He will discuss the evolution of the sensor that made it all possible on Tuesday, Oct. 18, as part UM’s Provost’s Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series.

DeGrandpre will present “From Sewer Pipe to the XPRIZE: The Evolution of a Chemical Sensor” at 5 p.m. in the Dell Brown Room of Turner Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

DeGrandpre became fascinated with science and chemistry after ruining his mother’s card table with an incendiary chemical reaction at age 10. His interests were encouraged and developed at Helena’s C.R. Anderson Junior High School and Capital High School. He enrolled in chemical engineering at Montana State University in 1981 and then went on to obtain a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1990.

His UW research focused on fiber optic-based chemical sensors. He used this knowledge as a postdoctoral scholar at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts to develop a successful CO2 sensor (the Submersible Autonomous Moored Instrument, or SAMI) for marine applications.

He came to UM in 1996 to – oddly enough – continue his ocean-focused research. The SAMI sensor technology has been a career-long endeavor, with the development and commercialization of related sensors and using the sensors in aquatic environments to improve understanding of the global carbon cycle and ocean acidification.

DeGrandpre’s career has benefited from many excellent teachers, professors and research mentors and by associating with talented engineers. His current research is focused on the Arctic Ocean carbon cycle and development of an autonomous alkalinity sensor.

For more information about DeGrandpre and the XPRIZE, see


Contact: UM Provost’s Office, 406-243-4689,