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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 UT’s 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.

Conference Opportunities

The International Workshop on Biology and Biotechnology of Thermophilic Microorganisms

Dr. Tatiana Vishnivetskaya, a Research Associate in the Center for Environmental Biotechnology at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, has recieved a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Office of International Science and Engineering, for organization of the International Workshop on Biology and Biotechnology of Thermophilic Microorganisms. This workshop will combine two satellite conferences, which take place October 5-7, 2015 in Vere Palace Hotel Tbilisi, Georgia and October 8-10, 2015 in ANI Plaza Hotel Yerevan, Armenia. Georgia and Armenia are countries in the region of the Caucasus Mountains, which is located between the Black and the Caspian seas and rich in deposits of various minerals, oil and gas, as well as mineral waters and thermal springs. This region is poised for major discoveries since the thermal features here have not undergone intensive study with advanced methods.

A total of 10 US scientists will be supported through this grant to be a part of this exciting workshop. They are Tatiana Vishnivetskaya (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee); Robert Ramaley (University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska); Lori Ziolkowski (University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina); John Spear (Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado); Jordan Bird (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee); Drake McCrimmon (University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina); Fran Perler (New England BioLabs, Boston, Massachusetts); Dina Polosukhina (Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee); Wesley Swinley (Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, Illinois); and Eric Becraft (Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, East Boothbay, Maine).

The purpose of this workshop is to exchange research information, discuss new technologies for examining thermophiles, enhance our understanding of thermophiles, and build scientific collaborations.

The registration site for the International Workshop on Biology and Biotechnology of Thermophilic Microorganisms is now open [Registration Link].

The agenda for the Georgia conference (link)

The agenda for the Armenia conference (link)

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

International Research Opportunity

The Center for Environmental Biotechnology hosts the International Research Experience for Students (IRES) program funded by the National Science Foundation, Office of International Science and Engineering. This project, entitled "IRES: Undergraduate Research Opportunities in Microbiology and Biogeosciences of Siberian Deep Subsurface Permafrost," is under the direction of Drs. Tatiana Vishnivetskaya, and Karen Lloyd. This project offers U.S. undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct research on unique 5 thousand to 3 million years old permafrost sediment samples at the Soil Cryology Laboratory ( at the Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems of Soil Sciences under supervision of Russian and U.S. mentors. A total of 12 undergraduate students over the next three consecutive summers (4 students per summer) will be selected on a competitive basis. The microbial diversity of permafrost samples will be uncovered using classical microbiological and high-throughput molecular techniques. The permafrost microbial communities will be examined with respect to the impact these organisms may have on sequestration of complex organic matter, and emission of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane) during the global warming and permafrost degradation. Prospective undergraduate students must apply for IRES scholarship by January 18, 2016 and third Monday in January, thereafter (

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 2014 academic semester.

Kelly Arnholt Enolia Marr Jaipal Narula
Peter Hjorth Casey Martin Sarah Shore
Alden Ho Saxon McDonald Nathan Wolfenbarger
Haylie Lam Hannah Simpson Gray Pickney
Noor Alshibli Savannah Stelling Austin Harris
Sheridan Brewer Kaela O’Dell Brittny Detienne
Benjamin Adams Shane Hagen Damani Driver
Kate Fitzgerald Djibril Niang

Simsir Wins 2014 Geosyntec Competition

Ms. Burcu Simsir, a doctoral student working with Governor’s Chair Professor Frank Loeffler, was recently announced the winner of the 2014 Geosyntec Annual Student Paper Competition. This highly competitive award is sponsored by Geosyntec Consultants and research papers are reviewed and ranked by experts in the field. This award recognizes Ms. Simsir’s contributions to bioremediation research and illustrates the strength and breadth of UTK’s Center for Environmental Biotechnology and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Ms. Simsir presented her award-winning paper “Natural Attenuation in Streambed Sediment Receiving Chlorinated Solvents from Underlying Fracture Networks” at the Ninth International Conference on Remediation of Chlorinated and Recalcitrant Compounds. Ms. Simsir’s work focuses on a site polluted with chlorinated solvents adjacent to UTK’s campus (the construction site of the new shopping center). Her work explores the contributions of microorganisms present in Third Creek sediment to detoxify contaminants that infiltrate the creek from below ground source zones.

Burcu Simsir

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

Zhuang J, Yu H-Q, Henry T, Sayler G. 2015. Fate and toxic effects of environmental stressors: environmental control. Ecotoxicology doi:10.1007/s10646-015-1567-9:1-6

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.

Loffler FE, Yan J, Ritalahti KM, Adrian L, Edwards EA, Konstantinidis KT, Muller JA, Fullerton H, Zinder SH, Spormann AM. 2015. Dehalococcoides mccartyi gen. nov., sp. nov., obligately organohalide-respiring anaerobic bacteria relevant to halogen cycling and bioremediation, belong to a novel bacterial class, Dehalococcoidia classis nov., order Dehalococcoidales ord. nov. and family Dehalococcoidaceae fam. nov., within the phylum Chloroflexi. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 65:2015.

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 TA, Hamilton-Brehm SD, Podar M, Mosher JJ, Palumbo AV, Phelps TJ, Keller M, Elkins JG. 2015. Community analysis of plant biomass-degrading microorganisms from Obsidian Pool, Yellowstone National Park. Microbial Ecology 69:333-345.

Xu T, Marr E, Lam H, Ripp S, Sayler G, Close D. 2015. Real-time toxicity and metabolic activity tracking of human cells exposed to Escherichia coli O157:H7 in a mixed consortia. Ecotoxicology, doi:10.1007/s10646-015-1552-3.

Xu X, Oliff K, Xu T, Ripp S, Sayler G, Zhuang J. 2015. Microbial availability of mercury: Effective detection and organic ligand effect using a whole-cell bioluminescent bioreporter. Ecotoxicology, doi:10.1007/s10646-015-1553-2.


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).