Friday, November 10, 2023 | 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Uncas A. Whitaker Hall, 100
6760 Forest Park Pkwy, St. Louis, MO 63105, USA
Dr. Susie Dai, Assosciate Professor
Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology
Adjunct appointment in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Texas A&M University
Chem-Bio Hybrid Design for Environmental Solutions and Chemometrics for Environmental Health and Justice
Abstract: Our generation faces daunting energy and environmental challenges, ranging from greenhouse gas emissions to the accumulation of persistent contaminants. The solutions to those challenges cannot rely on chemical solutions alone but require integrated approaches with high energy efficiency yet low negative environmental impacts. To overcome these challenges, we have constructed various chem-bio and material-bio hybrid systems and processes to achieve sustainable commodity product manufacturing from CO2 and efficient bioremediation of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) like PFAS. First, we have integrated the catalyst and microbial designs to build highly efficient Chem-Bio synthetic pathways, producing electrobioplastics and electrobiodiesel from CO2 with more than four-fold higher efficiency than natural photosynthesis. Second, we have designed a similar Chem-Bio remediation system to efficiently degrade POPs by synergizing the redox potential in the electrolyzer and the redox enzymes from engineered microorganisms. Third, we employed a reverse engineering principle and designed a biomimicking sorbent derived from lignocellulosic biomass, achieving a record level of PFAS absorption. Since the sorbent is lignocellulosic biomass-based, it can support the growth of bioremediation fungus and induce redox enzyme expression. The material-bio system creates an integrated treatment train, where the biomimicking sorbent absorbs PFAS and presents to fungus for bioremediation, avoiding secondary hazards and substantially improving bioremediation capacity. Furthermore, based on our understanding of biomass structure, we have designed a lignin-nanoparticle-doped catalyst to achieve efficient POP degradation and bacterial removal under ambient conditions. Fourth, based on our understanding of microbial surface chemistry and interaction, we have designed new routes to remove microplastics from the environment. Finally, we have leveraged the chemometrics approach to achieve efficient community sampling and risk management for safeguarding public health through reducing environmental chemical exposure in vulnerable communities.
Bio: Dr. Susie Dai is an Associate Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, with an adjunct appointment in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Texas A&M University and the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health at the University of Iowa. Dr. Dai also holds an adjunct appointment in the State Hygienic Lab at the University of Iowa, where she previously served as the Associate Director for the state agency and the Director of its Environmental Health Division. Dr. Dai obtained her PhD in Chemistry from Duke University, followed by post-doc training in the Scripps Research Institute at the Florida campus and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Dr. Dai’s group focuses on advancing cutting-edge environmental solutions and safeguarding public and environmental health through biomonitoring, data analytics, and public engagement. Her team has integrated electrocatalysis processes and material design with microbial and bioprocess engineering for efficient CO2 utilization and environmental remediation. Furthermore, she has applied multiple bio/analytical platforms and data analytics to study and understand environmental chemical impacts on the environment and the vulnerable human population. She has published in Chem, Nature Communications, PNAS, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. and others.