Nerenberg Receives CAREER Award

Posted on | February 22, 2012 | No Comments

Robert NerenbergRobert Nerenberg, associate professor of civil engineering and geological sciences, has been named a 2010 National Science Foundation Early Career Development (CAREER) Award recipient. The CAREER award is the highest honor given by the U.S. government to young faculty in engineering and science.

Nerenberg’s CAREER project, titled “Dynamic Structure and Function of Biofilms for Wastewater Treatment,” uses a novel research platform combining microsensors — bacteria tagged with an anaerobic fluorescent protein — and confocal laser scanning microscopy, to determine the dynamic behavior of bacterial biofilms. The new platform will be used to study the effects of biofilm detachment and re-growth, as well as sudden shifts in nutrient concentrations, on the biofilm microbial community structure, activity, and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. This research is directly relevant to biofilms in wastewater treatment but may also enable research on industrial and clinical biofilms.

Several educational components were included in his proposal. For example, Nerenberg will work with Hispanic students in local schools, encouraging them to pursue careers in engineering and science. He is well suited for this task, given his 14 years living in Argentina, where he obtained his secondary and undergraduate education. He also will train local high school teachers to use simple molecular tools and help them develop teaching modules for their students. In addition, a pilot undergraduate research exchange program with the Pontificia Universidad Católica in Chile will be initiated as a means to provide collaborative international research experiences for undergraduate and graduate students.

A faculty member since 2004, Nerenberg’s research centers on biofilm processes in environmental engineering, especially for water and wastewater treatment. He and his team have developed a novel wastewater treatment process, the Hybrid Membrane Biofilm Process, that reduces energy requirements by up to 50 percent and minimizes emissions of N2O.
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