Microbiology & Immunology Cross-Appointed Faculty
M. Neal Guentzel, Ph.D.
Bioremediation involves the use of microorganisms for removing toxic contaminants from the environment through metabolic activity. The process is amenable to decontamination of surface waters, groundwaters, and soils and provides a more cost effective, energy efficient, and permanent solution than other currently acceptable disposal technologies. We have produced a database accessible library of degradative organisms which were isolated from hundreds of samples supplied to us by oil companies, railroads, and the military from contaminated sites throughout the US. These microbes have been screened for metabolism of 15 priority pollutants and serve as a source for construction of degradative consortia of microbes for bioremediation of petroleum hydrocarbons through an ongoing sponsored research agreement with a major oil company. Our current efforts are focused on isolation and characterization of microbes for new bioaugmentation mixtures for use in cold climates (psychrophilic degraders), for hazardous contaminants (PCB’s, polynuclear aromatics, pesticides), and for unusual site-specific applications. We are also working with biosurfactants to enhance the efficacy of bioaugmentation products. In addition to bioremidiation, the laboratory also does health effects studies and investigations into virulence factors of the human pathogens Candida albicans and Vibrio cholerae.
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