Environmental Biotechnology Research

Faculty Member: Dr. Amy Pruden

The recent biotechnology boom has brought with it boundless opportunities to advance understanding of natural and engineered systems.   Biomolecular techniques, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (tRFLP), fluorescence in-situ hybridization (FISH), and 16S rRNA gene community profiling represent powerful tools for gaining fundamental insight into the microbes that drive innumerous processes vital to environmental engineering. In Dr. Pruden’s research, biomolecular techniques are central to a wide range of projects, from anaerobic digesters, contaminated groundwater, oil spills, emerging contaminants, and even drinking water. In all cases, the role of microbes is complex and dynamic, often with either a detrimental net effect, such as spreading human disease, or a beneficial one, such as biodegradation of hazardous chemicals in the environment. In any case, better understanding the microbes that surround us through the application of environmental biotechnology promises new discoveries and new ways of advancing water sustainability and protecting human health.

A full host of equipment and facilities required for environmental biotechnology research is available to researchers across the EWR program, primarily housed within the new ICTAS II building. The Fralin Biotechnology Center and the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech are additional resources on campus adding the capabilities of 454-pyrosequencing, confocal scanning laser microscopy, nucleic acid sequencing, proteome analysis, genechip and custom microplate technology.