4. Biodegradation

Dr. VanBriesen’s research in biodegradation has focused on recalcitrant organic compounds that are biodegraded through multiple steps, requiring careful analytical assessment as well as new models and statistical tools.

Organic chelating agents such as nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA) and ethylenediametetraacetic acid (EDTA) are present in many forms in the environment, making their degradation dependent upon conditions such as pH and presence of specific metals.  Biodegradation is initiated through oxygenase reactions that require investments in electrons from the cells, slowing initial degradation and reducing overall cell yield.


Similarly, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) are present in multiple forms (called congeners) in the environment. These forms have different degradation pathways and rates of transformation. Understanding the fate and transport of PCBs in the environment requires attention to these congener-specific reactions in experimental and modeling work.