Environmental Microbiology and Biotechnology

As the world’s increasing population and global climate change place unprecedented stresses on Earth’s freshwater systems, microbiological and chemical pollutants in our water will create acute challenges for environmental engineers and public health scientists.  An understanding of the fate of chemical stressors – e.g. toxins, pharmaceuticals, trace contaminants – in both natural environments and manmade systems is sought to guide the development and enhancement of microbial transformation processes for the biological removal of pollutants from water, wastewater, and landfills.  Applications of environmental biotechnology encompass all facets of water quality engineering, including water supply, water quality modeling, pollution control, and process design of water and wastewater treatment operations.

Research areas of interest in the Environmental Microbiology and Biotechnology group include the following:

  • detection and mitigation of viruses, bacteria, and antibiotic resistance genes in water
  • spectroscopic, spectrometric, and genomic tools to elucidate disinfection pathways for environmental pathogens
  • recycling of wastewater resources through land application of biosolids
  • biological synthesis of nanoparticles of precious metals
  • reduction of methane emissions from landfill sites by stimulation of methanotroph communities
  • new biochemical and molecular techniques for characterization and in situ monitoring of microbial diversity and activity
  • biological filtration and biofilm systems for drinking water treatment
  • sustainable aquaculture and handling of waste streams from agriculture and food processing
  • next-generation wastewater treatment systems utilizing membrane bioreactors, anaerobic biological treatment, and/or foaming reduction in activated sludge basins
  • engineered treatment systems for the sensing and removal of contaminants
  • antibiotic resistance in microbial communities from pharmaceutical discharges
  • resource recovery from wastewater
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