TU Berlin

Environmental MicrobiologyMicrobial transformation processes

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Microbial transformation processes of pollutants in technical and natural systems

In my research I am interested in how microorganisms impact the fate of pollutants from anthropogenic and natural origin. For this I investigate together with colleagues, students and cooperation partners the interaction of microorganisms with different types of pollutants ranging from low molecular weight substances such as pharmaceuticals to high molecular weight compounds such as plastic materials.

We analyze the formation of transformation products; assess their toxicity and we try to understand the biochemical mechanisms which govern the transformation processes. Together, this shall help to extrapolate and predict the behavior of substances in presence of specific bacterial groups and thereby contribute to expand our knowledge on how microorganisms can be used to remediate and mitigate pollution in aquatic and terrestrial environments.

A specific focus is currently on a phylogenetically diverse bacterial group, able to oxidize divalent manganese and iron. It is assumed that during the oxidation process of manganese, diverse pollutants can be transformed via an unspecific mechanism involving reactive manganese species.

Many of the members of this bacterial group form manganese and iron incrusted biofilms and could be suitable for applications in fixed bed reactors for the treatment of polluted water. In addition, manganese-oxidizing bacteria occur in the natural environment and may therefore impact also pollutants which enter natural terrestrial and aquatic environments.

Therefore, we aim with our research at a deeper understanding of the ecological and potential biotechnological role of this bacterial group. For this we cultivate manganese-oxidizing bacteria isolated from natural and technical sources in batch and reactor systems in the presence of pollutants.

We analyze the transformation of the pollutants in the presence of manganese-oxidizing bacteria and investigate the response of the organisms on a molecular level. The cultivation is conducted in different types of media, to understand which condition and which of the phylogenetically diverse manganese-oxidizing strains is most suitable for biotechnological applications.

Within this framework I offer master and bachelor thesis projects and student research projects in which cultivation, HPLC and GC -based analytics, microscopy and molecular methods are applied.

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