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Analytical Limitations and Molecular Advances for Microbial Water Quality Decision-Making

Speaker: Jeanne M. VanBriesen, Carnegie Mellon University
Series: CEE Departmental Seminars
Location: Bowen Hall Auditorium
Date/Time: Monday, May 5, 2014, 12:15:00 p.m. - 01:30:00 p.m.


Jeanne M. VanBriesenAssessing environmental microbial processes in water relies on understanding complex, multi-phase behaviors of physical, chemical and biological interactions across multiple scales of time and space. Insufficient information about complex system behavior is pervasive, and the use of surrogate organisms to represent contamination is common (e.g., indicator organisms at beaches). With recent advances and improved understanding of microbial populations, the suitability of surrogates is questioned and a revision of the paradigm for study may result. However, long after this transformation takes place in research communities, public policy may continue to be based on outdated surrogates due to misunderstandings of the value of complete analysis or due to time or cost considerations. This talk will present research on microbial analysis in surface and drinking water using conventional surrogates, DNA-based analysis, and chemical indicators that are more easily incorporated into real-time sensors. Applications in surface water monitoring and targeted remediation will be presented along with applications for drinking water monitoring and intentional intrusion detection.


Dr. Jeanne M. VanBriesen is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. VanBriesen holds a B.S. in Education and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Northwestern University. Her research is in environmental systems, including biotransformation of recalcitrant organics, detection of biological agents in drinking water and natural water systems, and speciation-driven biogeochemistry of chelating agents and disinfection by-products. Dr. VanBriesen has served on the boards of the Association for Environmental Engineering and Science Professors and the Ohio River Basin Consortia for Research and Education. She is currently serving on the U.S.EPA Science Advisory Board.