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Insights into the Function of Microbial Dark Matter in Environmental Biotechnology

William Mong Distinguished Lecture by Professor Per Halkjær Nielsen
Mar 27, 2018

Date: March 27, 2018 (Tuesday)
Time: 5:00pm – 6:00pm (Reception: 4:30pm)
Venue: KK201, 2/F, K.K. Leung Building, HKU
Speaker: Professor Per Halkjær Nielsen
                     Center for Microbial Communities,
                     Department of Chemistry and Bioscience,
                     Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark

Abstract:
The unprecedented development in DNA technologies over the past 10 years has revolutionized the capabilities to investigate and understand the microbes as the key to sustainable development in water and wastewater treatment, bioremediation, recovery of nutrients, and production of bioenergy. The vast majority of these microbes cannot be isolated and cultivated in the laboratory and thus constitute biological “dark matter” of which we understand very little. Novel DNA technologies are likely key to revealing the potential activities of the microbial communities that underpin important processes in environmental biotechnology, and the results from their application have revealed fascinating and promising insights. Metagenomes provide an efficient and fast way to retrieve high quality genomes from environmental microbial communities. Presented examples include recovery of genomes from novel or poorly described uncultured species, some of these from novel candidate phyla without cultured representatives. The genome recovery and annotation of metabolic pathways can facilitate targeted metatranscriptomics and metaproteomics that, combined with various single cell techniques such as Raman microspectroscopy, can resolve the in situ physiologies of otherwise elusive microbes. This novel understanding about the microbial dark matter can be applied for “online” DNA sequencing, surveillance, and control of engineered systems such as wastewater treatment plants or anaerobic digesters.


Biography:
Professor Per Halkjær Nielsen is full professor at the Department of Chemistry and Bioscience at Aalborg University, Denmark where he is heading the multidisciplinary Center for Microbial Communities (www.cmc.bio.aau). His research group has been active in environmental biotechnology for over 25 years, focusing on microbial ecology of biological wastewater treatment and bioenergy production, recovery of nutrients, biofilms, and aspects of medical microbiology. He has been among the pioneers in the development and implementation of the new DNA sequencing technologies in the water engineering field, and has developed MiDAS, an open online microbiology resource for everyone working in wastewater treatment and bioenergy production. He chaired the International Water Association (IWA) specialist group “Microbial Ecology and Water Engineering” for 8 years (2005-2013) and is chair of the IWA-ISME (International Society for Microbial Ecology) BioCluster, trying to coordinate activities in the two associations. He has received many awards for his work, latest a personal “Villum Investigator Award” that allows him to dive into the world of undescribed microbial diversity, the microbial dark matter, by novel methods.

 

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All are welcome!