Investigators - Biological Sciences

Faculty members pursuing energy-related research, who are affiliated with the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (http://biosci.mst.edu/) follow. Click on the individual web site for more information. Click on an e-mail address to correspond. You may also find additional information on them and their projects by clicking on the 'Research/Publications'.

Melanie Mormile,   http://web.mst.edu/~mmormile,  mmormile@mst.edu

Dev Niyogi,   http://web.mst.edu/~niyogid,  niyogid@mst.edu

Dr. Mormile's training has been in the area of anaerobic biodegradation.  Directed anaerobic biodegradation involves the use of microorganisms to breakdown unwanted materials.  This metabolism of unwanted materials can be harnessed to generate energy in a number of ways.  One way is the production of methane from materials such as animal and human wastes.  For example, methane can be harvested from anaerobic animal waste reactors and municipal landfills.  Her research interests in methane production from wastes include the study of the microorganisms responsible for the degradation and how to enhance this degradation with the goal of enhancing methane production.

Another anaerobic metabolism that holds her interest is the use of iron-reducing bacteria for the generation of electricity.  Iron reducing bacteria, as well as other anaerobic respiring microorganisms, have to shunt electrons to an electron acceptor to remain viable.  Currently, there is active research on the use of anodes in biofuel cells as electron acceptors for these organisms.  Her research interest is on finding novel anaerobic bacteria that would efficiently shunt electrons to anodes and produce electrical currents.

She also has an expertise in halophilic (salt-loving) microorganisms.  One group of organisms that has potential as a source of bioenergy is the halophilic algae.  These organisms produce oils that are used to maintain their osmotic pressure in their cells.  These oils could possibly be used to produce biodiesel.  Other halophilic organisms include bacteria with unique metabolisms that can degrade waste products, such as glycerol, to products such as ethanol and hydrogen.      

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Dr. Niyogi is an aquatic ecologist specializing in the study of ecosystem processes.  Much of his research has focused on the functional response of streams to anthropogenic stressors.  These studied have included studies on carbon and nutrient cycling in streams affected by mine drainage, agriculture, and climate change.  Dr. Niyogi also has an interest in the use of algal production for biofuels, particularly biodiesel.  He and Dr. David Summers supervised a group of 7 undergraduates that competed in the EPA's People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) competition in 2007.  They explored the use of different types of algae for cultivation in bioreactors located in the controlled setting of underground mines.

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