Contact Information:

Center for Biomarker Analysis
10515 Research Drive, Suite 300
Knoxville, Tennesseee 37932

Phone: (865) 974-8031
Fax: (865) 974-8027

Biographical Sketch:

Dr. Susan Pfiffner is a Research Assistant Professor with the University of Tennessee, Department of Microbiology and works at the Center for Environmental Biotechnology and the Center for Biomarker Analysis. A microbial ecologist who received her Ph.D. in 1991 from Florida State University, she has more than 60 presentations at scientific meetings and published abstracts, 28 publications, a 1996 R&D 100 award for the development of PHOSter, and a patent # US 5480549 (Apparatus and Method for Phosphate_Accelerated Bioremediation, PHOSter). She is a member of the American Society for Microbiology, the Association for Women In Science, and is on the Science Advisory Committee for the Integrated Petroleum Environmental Consortium (IPEC). Over the past 15 years, she has been involved with investigations of subterranean microbial community composition and metabolic or degradative activity. Field projects have included: (1) Subsurface Science Projects at Aiken, SC (Savannah River Site); Cerro Negro, NM; Parachute, CO; Oyster, VA; (2) Bioremediation Projects at the Savannah River Site (Integrated Demonstration), Columbus AFB, MS; General Motors, Warren, MI; Dover AFB, DE (Remediation Technology Development Forum Consortium); and other DOE sites (ORNL, INEL, Kansas City Plant, Portsmouth); and (3) Life In Extreme Environments involving South African gold mines. Her research interests include the microbial and geochemical evaluation of subterranean environments to determine which physiological types of microorganisms, as well as, which metabolic or degradative capabilities and geochemical processes exist in sediments and groundwater. Her objective is to understand the heterogeneity, microbial community structure, physiology and ecology of the subsurface microbial community and apply this knowledge to monitor subterranean environs, improve remediation processes, and develop biotechnological advancements.

Curriculum Vitae

U.S./South African Workshop

Educational Outreach:

U.S./South African Undergraduate Education and Research Workshops

The South African mines have provided a unique opportunity for research investigating geochemical and microbial processes in deep subsurface environments. This venture is an outgrowth of ongoing research through the NSF Life in Extreme Environment Program for the Witswatersrand Deep Microbiology Project. The workshop for December 2002 is a continuation of an educational effort begun last year, culminating in a workshop for U.S. and South African minority undergraduates in December 2001 (NSF-0132418). The purpose of the December 2001 workshop was to provide a field laboratory experience for minority undergraduate students within the United States (U.S.) and South Africa (S.A.) in the fields of Earth and Biological Sciences and Environmental Sciences and Engineering. We successfully demonstrated that a workshop with underground activities involving students from both nations was safe and feasible. By various measures of surveys, comments, attributes and program commitment, a positive impact on underrepresented minority students was shown. A niche was found and a path was demonstrated for fostering science, educational, and technology collaborations involving South African mines, faculty and students from U.S. and S.A. universities, government and industry. The purpose for the December 2002 is three fold: (1) to provide an undergraduate research experience and (2) to continue the exchange of science, education, joint research and biotechnological efforts, and (3) discuss and explore opportunities for expanding the educational, research and biotechnological efforts.

The December 2002 workshop, jointly hosted by the University of Tennessee and the University of the Free State (S.A.), will consist of two parts. The main part of the workshop will be the five-day undergraduate hands-on field laboratory logistics and research experience, which will follow the December 2001 workshop format and curriculum. It is anticipated that approximately 20 participants (10-15 U.S. and 5-10 S.A., with a total of 12-16 undergraduates) will be involved in the educational part of the workshop. The second part of the proposed workshop will consist of a day and a half of information exchange of research results on life in extreme environments and biotechnological applications using a similar format to the December 2000 U.S. and S.A. Joint Workshop on Biotechnological Applications of Deep Subsurface Microbial Investigations to Deep Mining (INT-0080581). Approximately 40 international participants are expected for the second part of the workshop. These participants will include the students and mentors from the undergraduate educational experience, U.S. and S.A. representatives of government and industry, U.S. and SA research scientists, representatives of S.A. mines, and faculty and students of several S.A. universities.

Shared Adventures in Engineering and Science Workshops

The "Sharing Adventures in Engineering and Science" (SHADES) conference is for 6th and 7th grade females and their math and science teachers in East Tennessee counties. The program consists of highly interactive, demonstration-oriented presentations and exhibits on science and engineering topics. The goal of the program is to show students that mathematics, physical sciences, life sciences, and the engineering disciplines are "fun" and interesting and that career options are very diverse. Speakers are engineers and scientists from the local professional societies, academia, and corporations who are interested in motivating young people to pursue careers in science and engineering. Career planning information is included in the registration packet.

The programs are designed, not just for the best students, but for those who have shown an interest in and an aptitude for science and math. We serve a broad spectrum of young girls who may benefit from motivation to take the high school math and science courses that will allow them to major in technical fields in college. Sessions for teachers are also planned as a part of the conference, and plans include in-service credit for those participating. Students and teachers who attended the previous conferences have been very enthusiastic about it.

SHADES is sponsored by the Greater Knoxville Math/Science Coalition. Coalition member organizations include the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Association for Women in Science (AWIS), Society of Women Engineers (SWE), American Nuclear Society (ANS), and the Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers (TSPE). Margaret B. (Peggy) Emmett, Chairperson, Greater Knoxville Math/Science Coalition, Telephone 865-574-5276, Email -

Science-In-Action Workshop

Similar to the SHADES program, Science-In-Action provides a one-day hands-on series of demonstrations over various science disciplines. These workshops are set up for three days; one day is targeted for each school level (elementary, junior high, and high school).

Women in Science Conference
This conference provides undergraduate and graduate student a broad view of the options and paths forward, as well as guidance, to careers in the sciences. Presenters represent a diverse community.

Microbial Community Assessment Using Phospholipid Fatty Acid Technology

One week of lectures and laboratory instruction on ths analytical chemical technique was part of technology transfer and minority educational training at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Selected Educational and Research References:

Christen, K. 2002. Subterranean Science. InSites (The Newsletter of UT’s Waste Management Research and Education Institute) 10 (1):6-7. http//

NSF Final Report. 2002. Award # 0132418. South African Field Laboratory Workshop: Experience for Minority Undergraduates.

Ben-Ari. E. 2002. Intimate Connections: Geomicrobiologists Explore the Interactions between Biosphere and Geosphere. Bioscience 52:326-331.

Pfiffner, S.M., P.A. Sobecky, T.J. Phelps, and A.V. Palumbo. 2002. Microbiology of Atlantic Coastal plain aquifers and other unconsolidated subsurface sediments. In Gabriel Bitton (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Environmental Microbiology. Vol. 4, pp. 2028-2042. John Wiley & Son, Inc. New York, NY.

Takai, K., D.P. Moser, T.C. Onstott, N. Spoelstra, S.M. Pfiffner, A. Dohnalkova and J.K. Fredrickson. 2000. Alcaliphilus auruminutor gen. nov., sp. nov., an Extremely Alkaliphilic Bacterium Isolated from a Deep South African Gold Mine. Int. J. Syst. Evol. Microbiol. 51:1245_1256.

Pfiffner, S., Peacock, A., White, D.C., Phelps, T.J., Takai, K., Fredrickson, J.K., Moser, D.P. and Onstott, T.C. 2000. Relating subsurface microbial communities to geochemical parameters in samples from deep South African gold mines. Eos, Transactions, AGU, 2000 Fall Meeting. 81(48):F213.

Pfiffner, S.M., J.J. Beauchamp, T.J. Phelps, A.V. Palumbo, and T.C. Hazen. 1997. Effects of methane dosing to groundwaters and sediments. J. Indust. Microbiol. 18 (2/3): 204-212.

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Link to the CEB Webpagepicture with title - Susan M. Pfiffner, Ph.D.