Principal Investigator

Faculty Profile
George Wells, Ph. D.

Louis Berger Junior Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering


Postdocs

Alex Rosenthal
email
Ph. D. (2014) City College of New York, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Alex joined the Wells research group in 2014 and is involved in multiple applied and fundamental research projects. His current project is an investigation of the interplay among mesoscale structure, mechanical properties, and emergent macroscale function in environmentally relevant biofilms. The long term goal of this project is to create a strategy for “structural health monitoring” of biofilm reactors that could be adopted by researchers and water resource recovery engineers to predict process stability. On the applied side, Alex is participating in studies to investigate the feasibility of (1) applying anaerobic ammonium oxidation in the mainstream of municipal water resource recovery facilities and (2) various fermentation technologies to recover waste organic carbon for beneficial use. Together, these projects help guide municipalities towards energy- and cost-neutral water resource recovery.



Graduate Students

Paul Roots
email
B.S. (2012) University of Illinois at Chicago, Civil Engineering

My current project involves bench-scale testing of the application of anammox (anaerobic ammonium oxidizing) bacteria to mainstream municipal wastewater streams for nitrogen removal. Compared to conventional N removal methods, this process can save both energy via aeration reduction and organic carbon. Further work will investigate the operating conditions and growth structures that optimize anammox activity and biomass retention.

Xu Zhang
email
B.A. (2013) Nankai University, Biology

Xu Zhang is a graduate student of Master of Biotechnology Program. He is analyzing microbial community structure and function in engineered riffle structures. His project looks at the relationship between micropollutant-- pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) removal, nutrient removal, community structure and river morphology. He is collaborating with Raj Dessai (a fellow MBP student) and Professor Kim Gray.


Raj Dessai
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B.A. (2014) Northwestern University, Chemical Engineering

A riffle structure (which structurally and functionally resembles a beaver dam) was constructed at Neal Marsh in the Upper Des Plaines River so that the surrounding area could be restored to its wetland status. However, a growing concern is that various micropollutants--called pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) and endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs)--could be causing harm to the microbial community that resides in biofilms within that riffle structure. The focus of my research is therefore threefold: 1) Determine what specific chemicals are in that region of the Des Plaines River; 2) determine if and how those chemicals are affecting the microbial community structure; and 3) determine if and how those chemicals are affecting the microbial community function. For this research, I am collaborating with Xu Zhang (a fellow MBP student), Dr. George Wells, and Dr. Kim Gray.

Morgan Petrovich
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B.A. (2011) University of California Berkeley, Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning

Some of my recent research efforts have focused on characterization of dual and mixed-species biofilm structural parameters using data analysis of 3D image stacks obtained through confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) and optical coherence tomography (OCT). My future research will focus on the distribution and spread of antibiotic resistance genes in aquatic ecosystems associated with effluent from wastewater treatment plants, particularly in the Great Lakes.
Jim Griffin
email
B.S. (2012) Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chemical Engineering

My research uses high throughput sequencing to investigate the complex microbial consortia in engineered and natural environments. I’m currently studying seasonal shifts in communities in Chicago’s Water Reclamation District using amplicon sequencing. I am developing new methods to improve our Understanding the environmental factors that lead to community stability and resilience and identifying triggers for and responses to disturbances is critical to designing efficient processes for nutrient removal.

Han Gao
email
M.S. (2013) Johns Hopkins University, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Han Gao is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northwestern University. She holds a M.S. in Geography and Environmental Engineering from Johns Hopkins University, and B.S. in Environmental Science and Engineering from Tongji University. During her undergraduate study, Han was involved in research related to anaerobic digestion and algal cultivation. Her research interest is the field of resources and energy recovery from wastewater.



Collaborators

Oluwaseyi Balogun
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering
McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science
Northwestern University

Kimberly Gray
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science
Northwestern University

Brian Murphy
Assistant Professor of Medicinal Chemistry & Pharmacognosy
College of Medicine
University of Illinois at Chicago

Justin Notestein
Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science
Northwestern University

Aaron Packman
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science
Northwestern University

Rachel Poretsky
Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
University of Illinois at Chicago