Biotech journal features researchers’ work two months in a row

Biotech journal features researchers’ work two months in a row

September 12, 2018

  • Biotechnology and Bioengineering, July 2018

    For the issue published in July, the cover detailed the reduction potential of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) for uranium.


    Download Photo
  • Biotechnology and Bioengineering, July 2018

    The second cover illustration, which was published in August, illustrated research focused on optimizing benzene biodegradation.


    Download Photo
  • Biotechnology and Bioengineering, July 2018

    Chen Zhou and his team had two of their works featured as cover stories for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, in issues published one month apart. 


    Download Photo
  • Biotechnology and Bioengineering, July 2018

    The team, including director of the Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology, Bruce Rittmann, published studies focused on lessening the impact of prominent pollutants.


    Download Photo

September 12, 2018

One of researchers’ main prerogatives is to receive recognition for their work in high-caliber journals – to be featured on the cover of a journal is an accolade that is highly sought after, but rarely received. To be featured on not just one cover but two covers is rare. Biodesign researchers managed to pull it off.

Back-to-back discoveries by Biodesign research scientist Chen Zhou and his team graced the covers of the July and August issues of "Biotechnology and Bioengineering," a leading journal in the biotech field. The team, including director of the Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology, Bruce Rittmann, published studies focused on lessening the impact of prominent pollutants.

The journal, established in 1959, was cited among the 100 most influential journals in biology and medicine for the past century by the Biomedical and Life Sciences Division of the Special Libraries Association. Scientists regularly seek exposure in high-level journals such as this.

“'Biotechnology & Bioengineering' is a historically important and influential journal.  For example, I published some of my earliest work in 'B&B' in 1980,” Rittmann said.

The journal covers a wide array of topics within the realm of biotechnology, but has a focus on environmental biotechnology and biochemical engineering, according to Rittmann.

“One of the important benefits of 'B&B' is that its scope spans the wide range of topics in which biological systems are used for environmental improvements and generating valuable products,” Rittmann added. 

For the issue published in July, the cover detailed the reduction potential of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) for uranium, while the August edition of the journal featured a diagram outlining the biodegradation of benzene.

The study featured on the July 2018 cover was the first to address the lower-valent products of uranium reduction during this process.  It concluded that, in the presence of hydrogen gas, EPS was capable of enhancing uranium immobilization.

These findings provided insights about the microbial U cycle and uncovered information regarding how to immobilize uranium in manmade reactors and in decontaminating polluted sites with microorganisms.

“This study fills in significant gaps of the microbe-mediated U cycle and will be useful to understand and control U removal in engineered systems and in-situ bioremediation,” Zhou added.

The second cover illustration, which was published in August 2018, illustrated research focused on optimizing benzene biodegradation.

The study utilized a Membrane Biofilm Reactor (MBfR), a novel technology invented by Rittmann. The reactor takes common contaminants in water and breaks them down into harmless materials by the action of bacteria.

In this study, this reactor was used to deliver oxygen gas to benzene.  Once the oxygen levels were lowered just enough, the anaerobes residing on the biofilm were enabled to oxidize the intermediate products by carrying out nitrate respiration.

“We achieved benzene biodegradation through aerobic activation followed by anaerobic mineralization using an O2-based MBfR as a new application of the technology,” Zhou said.  

Benzene, which is utilized in various household chemical and petroleum products as well as in the drug industry, is a common a pollutant capable of contaminating water Research aimed at degrading this chemical compound could lead to developments in reducing its environmental consequences.

The two-step strategy utilized in this study in particular mitigates the energy intensive delivery of oxygen and is quicker than using anaerobes alone.

“Our study opens the door for a promising treatment strategy that simultaneously ameliorates technical and economic challenges of aeration and slow kinetics of anaerobic activation of aromatic contaminants in water,” Zhou said.

Being featured on the cover of an influential journal is a highly sought-after accolade, and typically points to the importance of the work being featured in the study.

“Cover art is a great way to highlight the journal’s content, and journals choose cover art because the paper has an exciting new finding and one that can be expressed visually,” Rittmann said. “This makes cover art a great way for the researchers to promote their work to a wise audience.” 

 

Written by: Gabrielle Hirneise