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Workshop / Seminar

CHE 598 Seminar: Engineering Microbiome For Resource Recovery From Waste

Pullman Campus - Spark  335 Tri-Cities Campus - TCIC 221
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About the event

SPEAKER: Dr. Kuang Zhu, Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, WSU


Dr. Kuang Zhu is an assistant professor researcher from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at WSU. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and worked as a postdoc at the University of Michigan. Prior to that, he was a research associate at DC Water, a wastewater utility serving the greater Washington D.C. area, for 2 years, after getting his Master’s from Virginia Tech. He has been focusing on developing strategies to efficiently recover resources from waste by integrating fundamental understanding of biological processes and practical considerations in scaling.


Organic waste generated from domestic, industrial, and agricultural activities creates environmental and economic burdens upon disposal. Alternatively, it can be converted to energy sources and useful materials via biological processes, such as anaerobic digestion. Challenges related to the relatively low value of products like biogas, limited yield, and high capital and operational requirements, however, have severely restricted their applications that are financially feasible. Although specialized biochemical pathways can produce high-value chemicals at high yields, they require specific substrates and operating environments, limiting their applications in treating complex waste streams. Creating efficient yet versatile microbiomes via pathway-level engineering can address these challenges simultaneously, facilitating the shift from high-impact fossil-based manufacturing and dead-end waste disposal to sustainable biological-based chemical production and resource recovery. My research focuses on developing market-competitive strategies for recovering energy and valuable products from organic waste by engineering natural and synthetic microbiomes. I use DNA and RNA sequencing to understand the features and functions of microbiomes in engineered and natural systems. With such fundamental understanding, I employ biochemical and metabolic modeling coupled with bioreactor experiments to design and validate specialized microbiomes which can be used in cross-disciplinary strategies for integrated sustainable manufacturing and resource recovery from waste.