Talks & Lectures
18 Sep 2017

Biotechnology-Enabled Environmental Cleanup Application of Molecular Tools to Bioremediation of 1,4-Dioxane

CEOE Seminar​ Series

The CEOE Seminar Series continues onsite on Monday, September 18 with Biotechnology-Enabled Environmental Cleanup: Application of Molecular Tools to Bioremediation of 1,4-Dioxane with Mengyan Li, New Jersey Institute of Technology.

1,4-Dioxane (dioxane) contamination has emerged as a compelling global water concern given its carcinogenic potential and prevalent occurrence in aquatic environments. In situ biological treatments, including Monitored Natural Attenuation (MNA) and Bioremediation, exist as environment-benign and cost-efficient options to manage the large and diluted plumes that are commonly formed by dioxane. However, field applications of bioremediation for dioxane cleanup are hindered due to our limited knowledge of the biodegradation mechanisms (e.g., genes, enzymes, and pathways), as well as the lack of the capability to sustainably enhance and unequivocally monitor the onsite biological activities. This presentation is aimed to provide a timely scientific update by integrating our most recent research findings to shed light on overcoming these technological hurdles. Briefly, a novel multi-component monooxygenase was sequenced and characterized in a dioxane metabolizer given its capability of initiating the cleavage of dioxane and other cyclic ethers. The discovery of this catabolic gene advances our fundamental understanding of dioxane metabolic pathways and enables development of molecular biomarkers to assess bioremediation potential at contaminated sites. Combination of conventional and fluorescence-activated isolation approaches were employed to facilitate the identification of new dioxane degraders with superior degradation capabilities from enriched consortia. Overall, state-of-the-art molecular techniques are of significant application value to unearth and assess the performance of natural attenuation and bioremediation of dioxane plumes, which thus provide a rigorous basis for regulatory agencies and decision makers to select or reject these cost-efficient biological remediation techniques for site clean-up.

Dr. Mengyan “Ian” Li is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science at New Jersey Institute of Technology, specializing in environmental microbiology and biotechnology. Prior to joining NJIT in 2015, he obtained his MS and PhD degrees in Environmental Engineering at Rice University. Dr. Li develops water remediation techniques that deploy microorganisms to biodegrade organic pollutants of emerging global concern. He also researches interdisciplinary methods for improving urban water treatment technologies. To assess microbial activities in remediation and treatment processes, he has developed genetic forensic tools, such as a novel biomarker assay to evaluate the biodegradation of 1,4-dioxane, an emerging groundwater contaminant. That work won him the Honor Award in the Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science competition held by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists.

For more information and opportunities to talk with the speaker, please contact Dr. Valentina Prigiobbe at valentina.prigiobbe@stevens.edu.

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