Northwestern Events Calendar


EES Seminar: Francis L. de los Reyes III

When: Friday, November 30, 2018
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM  

Where: Technological Institute, A230, 2145 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Tierney Acott   847.491.3257

Group: McCormick - Civil and Environmental Engineering

Category: Lectures & Meetings


Linking the Microbiome to Reactor Performance: Anaerobic Co-Digestion of Grease Interceptor Waste as a Model System

The ‘omics revolution has generated copious amounts of data, and these methods are now being applied to the complex microbial communities in bioreactors that convert wastes. Yet it is not always clear how this data has led to improved function of specific bioengineered processes. How do we organize, analyze, gain insight from, and use the data for predictive, design, and operational purposes? This is not an easy task, given the complexity of microbial communities in multispecies, interacting, and dynamic bioreactor systems. Indeed, the great challenge for biological process engineers is to show that all these ‘newer’ techniques lead to actual engineering gains, rather than continually asking “who’s there” in one’s favored system. There is thus a need to not only directly link microbial communities to bioreactor function and environmental conditions, but also to show how bioreactor function can be directly enhanced by knowledge of the microbial communities.
Using anaerobic co-digestion of grease interceptor waste as a model system, we explore ways of linking the anaerobic microbiome to high methane yields in co-digesters, using a series of experiments: common garden, reactor stress studies, and long-term monitoring of the anaerobic microbial populations. I will present: the relationship between microbial community composition and functional dynamics in response to loading rates, the impacts of substrate history, the identification of key microbial populations determining survivability under stress, the role of deterministic factors in community assembly, and an operational strategy that led to a methane yield increase of 336% from 0.180 to 0.785 L-methane/g-VS added, the highest value reported to date for co-digestion of GIW.

Dr. Francis L. de los Reyes III is a Professor of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, and University Faculty Scholar at North Carolina State University. His research and teaching focuses on biological processes and combines modeling, bioreactor experiments, and molecular microbial ecology tools in addressing fundamental and practical issues in environmental biotechnology and environmental engineering. Another area of research is water and sanitation in low- and medium-income countries, where he is developing technologies across the sanitation value chain. He is a TED Fellow, and his TED talk on sanitation has been viewed over 780,000 times. He has received national and international awards for research, teaching, and service, including the Gordon Fair Medal for Environmental Engineering Education from the Water Environment Federation, the Excellence in Research Honor Award from the American Academy of Environmental Engineering, the Steven Dentel Global Outreach Award from the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, the NSF CAREER award, and awards from NC State University, Iowa State University, and the University of the Philippines. His research includes collaborative work in the Philippines, India, Malawi, South Africa, China, Kenya, and Zambia. He has been a consultant for industry, engineering firms, and public utilities on activated sludge operation, solids separation problems, sanitation technologies, and molecular microbiology techniques in the US, Philippines, India, China, and Montenegro. He has served or is currently serving on the Editorial Boards of the journals Water Research, Journal of Environmental Engineering, International Journal of Philippine Science and Technology, and was President and Board Member of the Philippine American Academy of Scientists and Engineers.

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