NAU researcher thrust into the maelstrom

Dr. Paul Keim works in his lab at Northern Arizona University. Keim rose to national prominence during the FBI investigation of the 2001 Anthrax attacks in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. (Courtesy of Charlie McCallie/Northern Arizona University)

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Paul Keim was out for a run with his dog on Observatory Mesa, oblivious to the events unfolding along the eastern seaboard.

He was training for a marathon that he would never run.

Within weeks, he would be sitting on the hood of his Toyota on the tarmac at Flagstaff Pulliam Airport when a blonde woman walked off a Gulfstream jet and handed him a package.

“Dr. Keim, this is the anthrax,” she told him.

Even from more than 2,000 miles away, most people in Flagstaff were touched by 9/11, but it didn’t dramatically alter the course of their lives. Keim was directly affected by that day perhaps more than any other person in the Flagstaff community.

Keim is the director of the Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics at NAU, where he is also a regents’ professor of biology.

He was a critical component of what was one of the largest and most complicated and most expensive investigations in the history of law enforcement.