Microbial biofilm technologies for low energy water treatment

Jeseth Delgado Vela

Jeseth Delgado Vela a PhD candidate in Environmental Engineering is studying microbial biofilm technologies for low energy nitrogen removal from wastewater. Wastewater treatment plants use microbes to protect humans and the environment from contaminants, but we lack a complete understanding of what factors drive microbial community structure and function in those systems. Drawing on tools from both computational modeling and laboratory sciences, Jeseth wants to understand microbial competition and cooperation in a membrane aerated biofilm reactor (MABR) to improve its operation and protect environmental and public health.

Jeseth has a lab scale membrane aerated biofilm reactor which combines low levels of aeration with anaerobic environments to create complex, multi-redox biofilms that achieve nitrogen removal.  By using biofilm modeling to understand the competition that occurs in the MABR biofilms, Jeseth seeks to operate the reactor to enhance nitrogen removal, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce the oxygen (and, consequently, energy) demand of the reactor.

For her dissertation Jeseth is:

  1. Building a biofilm model of an MABR.
  2. Experimentally determining parameters related to sulfur cycling in an MABR.
  3. Demonstrating nitrogen removal with a lab scale MABR.

Jeseth is co-advised by ITiMS faculty Nancy G. Love and Gregory J. Dick.