Banking on bioremediation

A MnDRIVE initiative finds a home in CBS and the BioTechnology Institute.

Under the leadership of College of Biologica Sciences Dean Bob Elde and Co-Directors Paige Novak and Mike Sadowsky, MnDRIVE’s "advancing industry, conserving our environment"  initiative is supporting new research, faculty positions, and outreach for water conservation and bioremediation.

“Our goal,” says Sadowsky, “is to establish the University of Minnesota as a national leader in the bioremediation of water and soils. We can provide research-based solutions to challenges impacting the state’s economy – from agriculture to mining – while enhancing environmental stewardship.”

To date, the BioTechnology Institute (BTI) has launched three successful MnDRIVE RFPs, funding five postdoctoral fellowships and seven graduate fellowships. Eleven undergraduate fellowships provide hands-on research opportunities for young scholars, while a new course developed by Larry Wackett (BMBB/BTI) offers students access to industry experts in biocatalysis and bioremediation.

MnDRIVE will fund four new faculty positions in CBS, CFANS, and CSE. The new faculty will also join BTI. From a pool of 142 applicants, twelve interviews have been scheduled and one offer extended to an internationally acclaimed applicant.

Collaboration across disciplines is key to MnDRIVE’s success. The initiative’s first "Meet and Greet" earlier this month gave a diverse group of faculty and post-docs the chance to discuss research in a casual setting. Many of the 30+ attendees, including faculty from Duluth, met for the first time.

“BTI’s strength in microbial systems for bioremediation and a strong culture of collaboration support a broad, multi-disciplinary approach to basic and applied research," says Novak. "When we sit down with industry, we can propose novel solutions crossing disciplines from environmental engineering to microbial sciences.”

In March, the initiative will put this model to work, hosting Mining, Metals, and Microbes in Minnesota, a workshop for participants from the mining industry who will meet with national experts in metals transformation, acid mine drainage and bioremediation.


More about MnDRIVE

Launched in 2014 with funding from the Minnesota Legislature, MnDRIVE (Minnesota Discovery, Research and InnoVation Economy) marks the beginning of a new partnership between the state legislature and the University of Minnesota. In areas ranging from diseases and conditions of the brain to robotics, food security, and the bioremediation of soils and waters, MnDRIVE funding will support interdisciplinary research in areas impacting Minnesota’s economy, environment and quality of life.