News & Events

Environmental Engineering seminar: Microbial ecology and engineering for energy and water security

Monday, March 05, 2018, 9:00AM - 10:00AM


Janelle R. Thompson

Civil and Environmental Engineering, MIT; Center for Environmental Sensing and Modeling, Singapore Visiting Assistant Professor


SEEC room N124

4001 Discovery Drive, Boulder

Achieving a sustainable future for a world with a growing population requires careful stewardship of energy and water resources. My research group's work centers on protecting surface water quality and maintaining energy security through improved tracking and control of microbial pollutants, a better understanding of geologic carbon dioxide sequestration's microbiological footprint, and developing "green" biotechnologies for production of biofuels and bioproducts. Our research is carried out through multidisciplinary collaborations and employs the tools of modern molecular ecology, environmental genomics, and systems biology. In the water domain, we identify the best-performing assays for tracking human fecal contamination in the tropics. We also leverage next-generation sequencing (NGS) of environmental DNA in order to link waterborne microorganisms with the water quality properties that they mediate, for example identifying cyanobacterial populations responsible for elevated levels of toxins and nuisance compounds that impair water quality and determining whether monitored fecal indicator levels are predictive for the occurrence of potential pathogens. In the energy domain, we work with microorganisms isolated from Geologic CO2 Sequestration (GCS), and natural analog sites, that grow under supercritical (sc) CO2, as models for GCS-microbiology and biotechnological development. We are currently using Bacillus megaterium SR7 isolated from the McElmo Dome CO2 field for construction of a two-phase system for engineered bioproduction of advanced biofuels with in situ scCO2 extraction for product purification. These projects open exciting new possibilities for enhanced water quality monitoring and control, as well as the production of advanced fuels and chemicals to support water and energy security in a sustainable future.


Dr. Janelle Thompson obtained her BS and MS from Stanford University in Biology and Environmental Engineering, respectively, and her PhD in Biological Oceanography from MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. She is currently a Principal Investigator and Associate Director at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology Center for Environmental Sensing and Modeling and holds a visiting appointment on the faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Her research interests include microbial water quality, the microbiology of geologic carbon dioxide sequestration, and systems biology for synthesis of advanced biofuels. She employs the tools of molecular biology, genomics/multi-'omics', and genetics to identify the components of microbial communities, and to study their dynamics, interactions, and organization. Dr. Thompson currently resides in Singapore with her husband and daughter, and in her spare time enjoys gardening, traveling and sharing culinary adventures with her family.


Free and open to the public.