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Day 1

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iFAST Environmental Biotechnology - Day 1

Date: Dec 16, 2021

Time:  10:00 am - 12:30 pm U.S. ET
            3:00 pm - 5:30 pm GMT
            11:00 pm - (Dec.17) 1:30 am China

U.S. Eastern Standard Time

10:00 am - 10:10 am

Introduction to Perry and the Symposium

Bruce Rittmann, Arizona State University

10:10 am - 10:35 am

Professor Bruce Rittmann is Regents’ Professor of Environmental Engineering and director of the Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology at Arizona State University. His research focuses on the science and engineering needed to “manage microbial communities to provide services to society.”  Services include generating renewable energy, cleaning water and soil, and improving human health. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering; a Fellow of AAAS, WEF, IWA, AEESP, and NAI; and a Distinguished Member of ASCE.  He was awarded the first Clarke Prize for Outstanding Achievements in Water Science and Technology from the NWRI, the Walter Huber Research Prize and the Simon Freese Award from ASCE, the G.M. Fair Award from AAEES, and the Perry L. McCarty/AEESP Founders Award.  He is the co-winner of the 2018 Stockholm Water Prize.  He has published over 740 journal articles, books, and book chapters, and has 17 patents.  With Professor Perry McCarty, Professor Rittmann co-authored the textbook Environmental Biotechnology: Principles and Applications (McGraw-Hill Book Co.), which is now out in its second edition.

10:35 am - 10:50 am

Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Michigan State University

Research Interests: The application of microbiology to understand and treat soil and water contamination

  • The identification of the microorganisms and functional genes involved in biodegradation of traditional, problematic contaminants (chlorinated solvents, BTEX, MTBE, RDX, 1,4-dioxane) and emerging contaminants (antimicrobials, pharmaceuticals and personal care products)
  • The application of molecular methods to environmental microbiology including quantitative PCR, TRFLP, stable isotope probing, LAMP, high throughout sequencing
  • The occurrence and fate of emerging contaminants in engineered and natural systems

10:50 am - 11:05 am

Pedro J.J. Alvarez is the George R. Brown Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University, where he also serves as founding Director of the NSF Engineering Research Center on Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT). His research interests include environmental implications and applications of nanotechnology, bioremediation, fate and transport of toxic chemicals, water footprint of biofuels, water treatment and reuse, and antibiotic resistance control. Professor Alvarez received the B. Eng. Degree in Civil Engineering from McGill University and MS and Ph.D. degrees in Environmental Engineering from the University of Michigan. He is the 2012 Clarke Prize laureate and also won the AAEES Grand Prize for Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science. Past honors include President of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP), the Perry McCarty AEESP Founders’ Award for Outstanding Contributions to Environmental Engineering Education and Practice, the AEESP Frontiers in Research Award, the WEF McKee Medal for Groundwater Protection, the SERDP cleanup project of the year award, the Brown and Caldwell lifetime Achievement Award for Site Remediation, the ASCE Simon Freese Award, and various best paper awards with his students. He is an Associate Editor of Environmental Science and Technology and previously served on the scientific advisory board of the EPA and of the advisory committee of the NSF Engineering Directorate. Prof. Alvarez was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for outstanding contributions to the practice and pedagogy of bioremediation and environmental nanotechnology.

11:05 am - 11:20 am

Yujie Men is an assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside. Her research focuses on the interactions between environmental microorganisms and the contaminants of emerging concerns, including how microbes could be adapted to transform and utilize of those contaminants, and how the exposure to certain contaminants could impact microbial features and processes. She holds a B.S. and M.S. in Environmental Science and Engineering from Tsinghua University. She earned her Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from University of California at Berkeley. She continued as a postdoc in the same university, and then at Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag). She started her academic career in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, then moved to the University of California, Riverside. She is a member of the American Chemical Society, American Society for Microbiology, International Society for Microbial Ecology, and Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, as well as one recipient of the NSF CAREER Award 2021.

(10-min break)

11:30 am - 11:45 am

Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, UCLA

My research interests lie in the area of microbial interactions with chemical contaminants and nanoparticles for applications ranging from ecotoxicology to biodegradation to disinfection. Bacteria and fungi serve as useful indicators of potential toxicity to higher organisms and ecosystem health, but they can also detoxify a variety of environmental pollutants. Conversely, antimicrobial materials can be used for disinfection applications. My laboratory pursues research projects employing microbiological, molecular biological, and isotopic tools to (a) characterize microbial communities in engineered and natural environments, (b) optimize biological processes to improve the performance of wastewater treatment or bioremediation systems, (c) explore production of biofuels from industrial wastewater, and (d) investigate mechanisms of transformation, toxicity, and trophic transfer of nanoparticles. Thus, a comprehensive study of the implications and applications of the biotechnology and nanotechnology revolutions will enable us to use their benefits without environmental and public health liabilities.


11:45 am - 12:00 pm

Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences

A major focus of the Nerenberg group is biofilms, especially membrane-biofilm reactors (MBfRs) and membrane biofouling. Biofilms are naturally forming aggregates of bacteria embedded in a self-produced gel layer known as extracellular polymeric substance (EPS). Biofilms are the dominant form of microbial growth in most environments. They may play beneficial roles, such as biocatalysts in treatment processes, or detrimental roles, such membrane biofouling.

Bacteria behave differently when in biofilms. Understanding and these differences is key to managing biofilms, whether in the context of treatment processes, biofouling, or even clinical or dental systems

Professor Nerenberg’s group uses advanced experimental tools, molecular tools, and modeling to understand and predict the behavior of biofilms. Our research is helping develop the next generation of treatment technologies for sustainable water management.

12:00 pm - 12:15 pm

Professor, Environmental/Geotechnical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering - Civil and Environmental Engineering Dept; interim Chair, Faculty of Engineering - Civil and Environmental Engineering Dept

Research Interests: Transformation of organic compounds by microorganism. Several techniques exist to treat contaminated aquifers. These range from excavation and subsequent treatment of groundwater or pump and treat methods to in-situ remediation via biological or chemical transformation of hazardous materials in non-toxic compounds. Of these techniques, in-situ bioremediation has the potential to provide an efficient and cost-effective remediation procedure while minimizing site disturbance. Bioremediation is defined as the biological breakdown of organic compounds by microorganisms to non-harmful end products. To implement and monitor bioremediation a fundamental understanding of how organic compounds are transformed and which microorganisms are involved is needed. Our research is currently focused on microbial transformations of naphthenic acids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and BTEX compounds.

12:15 pm - 12:30 pm

Department Head and Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

The unifying theme for my research interests is water reclamation and resource recovery, primarily by using microorganisms in engineered systems. Bacteria and other microbes have useful and sometimes surprising metabolic capabilities that we can harness to remove organic pollutants and create valuable products. While microbial communities are inherently dynamic, we can apply molecular biology techniques to assess microbial communities in environmentally relevant systems. Understanding and ultimately controlling these dynamics is important in many applications of environmental engineering microbiology. For example, microbes form the heart of wastewater treatment, degrading organics while also generating methane under specific conditions; any change in microbial activity or populations during treatment may have significant implications for the treatment effectiveness. By understanding the community dynamics during the treatment process, we may be better able to control the treatment effectiveness. I am also interested in assessing the sustainability of new treatment approaches. Current research activities include optimization and microbial characterization of anaerobic primary and secondary treatment, biological nitrogen removal, microbial valorization of methane to more complex organics, and development of a smart irrigation system for reclaimed water.


My teaching interests are diverse; I’ve taught 15 different classes at Mines! I strive to engage every student in each course. I have been actively involved in the Humanitarian Engineering program and teach elective courses (Sustainable Engineering Design, Onsite Water Reclamation and Reuse) that support that program as well as CEE. I continue to deliver core courses as well, such as Environmental Engineering Lab and Contaminant Fate & Transport.