Our Centers / Environmental Biotechnology

Better living through microbes

Microbial communities are groups of microorganisms that share a common living space and interact with each other and their environment. They’re found everywhere on Earth. Researchers are quickly and continuously learning more about their significance.  

The Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology forms partnerships with these microbial communities. This means managing the near-limitless metabolic diversity of the microorganisms while using their services to clean up pollution, produce renewable resources and improve our health. In return, we provide the microorganisms with a good life as they carry out their natural metabolism. It’s a win-win solution.  

We aim to be the world’s leading center for environmental biotechnology by producing fundamental and applied scientific concepts, technologies and field-leading people. Taken together, they improve a broad range of human-generated and natural environments, inform the human-environment relationship and promote a more sustainable future. 

The Swette endowment

ASU President Michael Crow, Director Ferran Garcia-Pichel and Swette family

Our center was renamed the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology in 2011 in honor of Brian Swette and his family for their exemplary support of sustainability at Arizona State University. Swette is an honored alumnus of ASU, who has had an enormously successful career in business, as both a founding member of E-Bay and CEO of Burger King. He and his wife, Kelly, are currently devoted to their current business Sweet Earth Natural Foods. In addition to support for our research center, Swette also is a member of the board of directors of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation, a unit of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory™.


Bruce Rittmann

Bruce Rittmann

Bruce Rittmann is an international leader in managing microbial communities. His work is leading to new ways to clean pollution, treat water and wastewater, capture renewable energy and improve human health. The membrane biofilm reactor, invented by Rittmann, uses naturally occurring microorganisms to remove contaminants such as perchlorate and trichloroethene from water. He holds five patents on the technology, which is being commercialized by APTwater, Inc. and Precient Technologies, LLC. 

Meet our center’s experts

Our center is supported by a knowledgeable team of researchers, staff and visionary leaders who are at the leading edge of their fields.


For questions about collaborations and center administration, please contact:

profile picture for Carole Flores

Carole Flores

Business Operations Manager

Support the Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology

Managing microbial communities that provide services to make society more sustainable.