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The University of Tennessee

Center for Environmental Biotechnology

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Center for Environmental Biotechnology

The Center for Environmental Biotechnology (CEB) was established in 1986 to foster a multidisciplinary approach for training the next generation of environmental scientists in solving environmental problems through biotechnology and distinguishing itself as a world leader in developing the interdisciplinary research field of Environmental Biotechnology. The CEB has evolved over the years by incorporation of state-of-the-art technology into its research programs and directing research towards emerging environmental and societal needs. The CEB maintains a core of faculty, non-tenure research faculty, and postdoctoral scientists dedicated to UTís goal of becoming a top 25 research institution, promoting economic development in Tennessee, and incorporating teaching, training, outreach, and diversity throughout their research programs. We provide expertise across a broad spectrum of science and engineering disciplines and are heavily invested in maintaining multidisciplinary research activities. Core research areas include bioenvironmental systems and environmental omics (genomics, metabolomics, transcriptomics, and gene expression), biomicroelectronics, nanobiotechnology, biomedical and health care imaging technologies, biosensor and bioreporter development, environmental toxicology and water quality, bioenergy and biofuels, and education and outreach.

Student Opportunities

The Center for Environmental Biotechnology hosts M.S. and Ph.D. degree seeking graduate students from multiple disciplines including (but not limited to) Microbiology, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Civil & Environmental Engineering, and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Prospective graduate students (i) must apply for graduate admissions to a relevant academic department and (ii) notify the CEB of their intent to conduct their research at CEB. The CEB additionally hosts numerous undergraduate student interns and high school students in order to promote scientific and technological learning and the application of learned concepts to real-world situations.

Information on the Graduate School can be found at Please visit the UTK website for information on academic departments. Information on undergraduate internships can be found at Information for high school students and/or their instructors interested in hands-on laboratory experiences can be found at

News and Events

The CEB welcomes and looks forward to challenging a talented group of undergraduate students and high school students in our lab during the Summer 2013 academic semester.

James Dean Webb Haylie Lam Eric Holweg
Casey Martin Peter Hjorth Nathan Tolbert
Enolia Marr

Improving Lives by Making Cells Glow (courtesy of the UT Media Relations Center)

Recent News

Dr. Susan Pfiffner is working with Dow Chemical and ORNL on a Department of Energy award to improve the white roofs' ability to reflect solar rays, reducing cooling costs for commercial buildings.


Recent Publications

Chourey K, Nissen S, Vishnivetskaya T, Shah M, Pfiffner S, Hettich RL, Loffler FE. 2013. Environmental proteomics reveals early microbial community responses to biostimulation at a uranium- and nitrate-contaminated site. Proteomics 13:2921-2930.

Close D, Xu T, Ripp S, Sayler G. 2014. Real-time bioluminescent tracking of cellular population dynamics, p. 107-116. In Badr CE (ed.), Methods in Molecular Biology, Bioluminescent Imaging, vol. 1098. Humana Press, New York, NY.

Fleming JT, Islam SK, Bull ND, Sayler GS. 2013. Development and characterization of a living-cell bioluminescent bioreporter integrated circuit (BBIC). In Thouand G (ed.), Luminescent Microbial Biosensor: Design, Construction and Implementation. Pan Stanford Publishing, Singapore.

Shi W, Menn FM, Xu T, Zhuang ZT, Beasley C, Ripp S, Zhuang J, Layton AC, Sayler GS. 2014. C60 reduces the bioavailability of mercury in aqueous solutions. Chemosphere 95:324-328.

Vishnivetskaya T. A., L. S. Fisher, G. A. Brodie, and T. J. Phelps. 2013. Microbial communities involved in biological ammonium removal from coal combustion wastewaters. Microbial Ecology, doi: 10.1007/s00248-012-0152-5.

Xu T, Close DM, Sayler GS, Ripp S. 2013. Genetically modified whole-cell bioreporters for environmental assessment. Ecol. Indic. 28:125-141.

Xu T, Close D, Webb J, Ripp S, Sayler G. 2013. Autonomously bioluminescent mammalian cells for continuous and real-time monitoring of cytotoxicity. J. Vis. Exp.:e50972.


Contact Information

The Center for Environmental Biotechnology
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
676 Dabney Hall
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-1605

For more information concerning CEB, please contact us by e-mail ( or by phone (865-974-8080).