Ford, Roseanne M.
Professor, Chemical Engineering
Bacterial attachment and biofilms, microbial transport in porous media
Our research focuses on the application of chemical engineering principles to problems in microbial ecology. The aim is to develop a fundamental understanding of mechanisms underlying microbial behavior which will provide insights for future technological innovation.
<b>Fundamental Studies of Bacterial Chemotaxis<b/>
To increase their chances for survival, populations of motile bacteria are able to direct their migration toward chemicals which are beneficial and away from substances detrimental to their survival. This ability to sense and respond to chemical gradients is known as bacterial chemotaxis. A quantitative characterization of this transport phenomenon is critical for assessing its importance in microbial processes such as nitrogen fixation, the development of infection, and the growth of biofilms on medical implants and marine surfaces. Our approach involves a combination of experimental measurements, rigorous mathematical modeling and direct simulation of bacterial population dynamics at the cellular level.
<b>Bioremediation of Hazardous Wastes<b/>
Bioremediation technology exploits the natural degradative processes of microorganisms for the purpose of cleaning up chemical wastes. This technology is superior to more conventional treatment schemes because it results in a permanent solution in which the waste is chemically transformed instead of concentrated or contained. The effectiveness of in situ bioremediation can be limited by the accessibility of the contaminant to the bacteria which are degrading it. Chemotaxis is one mechanism which might be exploited to bring the contaminant and bacteria into close contact and thereby increase the overall effectiveness of bioremediation. Our research involves investigating microbial transport limitations on the overall rates of in situ biodegradation and strategies for overcoming these limitations. The Computational Laboratory for Environmental Biotechnology was established to simulate remediation strategies and evaluate their effectiveness prior to implementation.