My research group is focused on developing advanced technologies centered on
leveraging the intrinsic capabilities of natural biological processes to ‘upcycle’ 
organic-rich waste and to more effectively process and treat wastewater. As individuals and as a society, we generate large
quantities of liquid and solid waste every day. In developed and undeveloped countries….urban
and rural communities….industrial and agricultural – our
activities inherently generate waste....and much of this waste contains
significant quantities of high-value organic matter. Opportunities exist to recover
and/or produce high value commodities from these organic-rich waste streams.
Unfortunately, our current approach is largely based on ‘managing’ these
waste streams....in other words, ‘disposing’ of the waste in a manner that
theoretically has minimal impact to human activities (first) and the
environment (second). At best we ‘downcycle’  the high value raw
material. And these activities are VERY energy intensive....for example, the simple act
of reclaiming water from municipal wastewater for a city of 100,000 can consume
enough electricity to power approximately 300 homes. While this may not seem
all that significant, relatively speaking, perhaps most importantly is the
fact that an opportunity is lost to maximize recovery of a valuable
substrate. If we are going to commit this amount of power to reclaim water,
at least we should generate more value in return.
My research group views waste streams and waste
management practices through a different lens. We see opportunities….to recover high value
compounds....to produce commodities that are of significant value to society
– that can replace commodities that are otherwise produced from
non-renewable raw materials….and perhaps most importantly, to not simply
dispose of the waste for future generations to deal with, but to advance
processes that can (optimally) lead to closed loop re-use and/or upcycling
. We also see opportunities to apply advanced molecular techniques to
learn more about conventional biological WWT processes such that we can
design and operate more efficient systems (both in terms of energy demand
and nutrient capture). Our focus is to accomplish these objectives using naturally occurring bacteria.
So, what type of research are we currently conducting….
We are producing biodegradable thermoplastics using naturally
bacterial consortia fed wastewater derived from organic-rich waste streams….the plastic exhibits some
very exciting material properties. Not only does the process sequester
carbon that would otherwise be emitted as CO2, but the process
can generate revenue for waste-producing industries.
We are investigating, at a macro and molecular level,
natural bacterial processes to more efficiently remove soluble orthophosphate from
wastewater. Excess phosphorus in natural surface water bodies can lead to
advanced eutrophication (water body death), which reduces water quality and adversely affects
aquatic organisms, drinking water potential, and recreation, among other
We are investigating the ability to produce methane and reduce
pathogens through a novel two-stage anaerobic digestion process that is
dairy manure. The process readily integrates with other technologies to
maximize resource recovery from manure.
We are investigating biological methods and the ability of
existing wastewater processes to remove Cipro,
Lipitor, and Carbamazepine from municipal wastewater. Our particular focus
in on technologies currently in use at full-scale WWTPs.
We own and operate pilot-scale WWTPs. Not only do my students
get important hands-on experience at an appropriate scale (which
intrinsically makes them better engineers), we are able to conduct our
studies at a scale that is relevant to full-scale systems. To learn more go
to the Scale Model WWTPs tab.
1. McDonough, W. and M. Braungart, Cradle to cradle:
remaking the way we make things. 2002, New York: North Point Press. 193.
Professionally I have over 20 years of experience as a
consulting engineer, 10 of which were full-time, and have been a licensed
Professional Civil Engineer since 1995. I am currently licensed in Idaho,
Washington, and Oregon. I am also a licensed certified water right examiner