Biotechnology-Enabled Bioremediation of Legacy and Emerging Pollutants

Human hand holding up glass half full of clear water

1,4-Dioxane (dioxane) contamination has emerged as a compelling global water issue considering its carcinogenic potential and prevalent occurrence in aquatic environments, posing imminent risks to human health and natural biota. Bioremediation, primarily relying on microbial degradation, is reputable as a green and economical alternative to mitigate and dilute the large plumes formed by dioxane.

Mengyan “Ian” Li, associate professor, Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science, New Jersey Institute of Technology, will introduce recent research findings that uncover the molecular foundations (e.g., genes, enzymes, and pathways) of dioxane biodegradation with the assistance of state-of-the-art biotechnologies. Using heterologous expression systems, catalytic functions and kinetics of key dioxane-degrading enzymes were characterized and compared. Notably, some of these novel enzymes demonstrated superior capabilities of oxidizing chlorinated aliphatic hydrocarbons (e.g., TCE, 1,1-DCE, and VC) that frequently co-exist with dioxane at impacted sites. These discoveries enable the development of site-specific bioremediation strategies optimized for the cleanup of commingled pollution of dioxane and chlorinated solvents.

Specializing in environmental microbiology and biotechnology. Dr. Li earned MS and PhD degrees in environmental engineering at Rice University. His research focuses on untangling novel microbial processes that decompose and transform emerging contaminants (e.g., 1,4-dioxane, PFAS and antibiotics) and developing effective treatment technologies suited for municipal, industrial and agricultural settings.

To tackle frontier challenges in the water-energy-food nexus, his group synergizes modern biotechnological tools (e.g., omics, single cell analysis and microarray) with high-resolution mass spectrometry. Their recent work has been featured on the cover of Environmental Science and Technology Letters and reported by multiple public media, such as Chemical & Engineering News and Wateronline.com.

Dr. Li is a recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, ISPTS Young Scientist Award, and NJIT CSLA Research Rising Star Award in 2019. His research group has received funding supports from NSF, USDA, EPA, USGS and many industrial collaborators.

This presentation is part of the Science and Mathematics Colloquium series in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at ASU Polytechnic campus.

Department: 
Faculty of Science and Mathematics, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts
Contact: 
Professor Steven Saul
Location: 
Online Zoom Workshop
Price: 
Free