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Featured Faculty: Birthe Kjellerup

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Featured Faculty: Birthe Kjellerup


Generations of women have contributed to engineering, and Clark School women are proud to be part of that tradition. In honor of women’s history month, the Clark School is celebrating one female engineering faculty member each day. Read about today’s featured faculty member, Birthe Kjellerup. 

Kjellerup Named Inaugural Wasmer Professor in Engineering

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Assistant Professor Birthe Kjellerup was named the A. James Clark School of Engineering's inaugural Pedro E. Wasmer Professor in Engineering. 

Kjellerup's research activity is in the biofilm area—a trending topic in microbiology.

"Bacteria are commonly considered free-living single cells, but most often they will band together and form a biofilm—a collection of cells held together by a tough web of fibers that offers protection from all types of threats, including antibiotics," Kjellerup said.

In her research, Kjellerup is utilizing a way to harvest the energy from wastewater via bacterial biofilms. This innovative process has the potential to supply 1-2 percent of our national power consumption every year, meaning less dependcy on "the grid" for our increasing power needs. Simultaneously, it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which impact climate change.

Kjellerup was awarded a four-year research project to research the application of biofilms for bioremediation of the toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in soil and sediment. PCBs have been applied for hydraulic systems and transformers but have been shown to cause cancer, influence the immune system, and even cause fetal deformities. By using the biofilm-based approach, toxic PCBs will be removed from the environment. 

Kjellerup teaches one graduate course, ENCE 637 Biological Principles of Environmental Engineering, and will teach BioE 120 Biology for Engineers, beginning January 2016.

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