The Distinguished Lecture Series started in Fall 2016 to honor faculty for their research impact. Department chairs, center/institute directors, deans, and Research Advisory Council members nominate highly engaging presenters with broad topic appeal. Distinguished Lecturers are selected for their ability to increase the knowledge of our community by connecting their research with societal and community concerns. Topics are broad, spanning all colleges and schools at Michigan Tech. Nominees are reviewed by committee twice per year and announced at the beginning of fall and spring semesters.
Memorial Union | Ballroom A
- 4 p.m. Networking
- 4:30 p.m. Lecture
- 5:00 p.m. Networking
|April 6, 2022|Theme: Recycling Plastic and Food|
Distinguished Lecturer, Dr. Stephen Techtmann
Trash to Treasure: Using microbial communities to convert plastic into food
Each year millions of tons of plastics are produced and over three-quarters of that plastic eventually ends up in landfills or the environment. At the same time, there is a growing need to find novel solutions to feed a growing population. These twin problems of plastic pollution and food insecurity are challenges that must be addressed through novel technological advances. Environmental microbial communities can serve as untapped reservoirs of biotechnologically relevant biological catalysts. Bacterial species capable of converting plastic into microbial biomass have been identified. However, the rates of biological plastic conversion on its own are very slow. Here we will discuss recent advances in coupling of chemical and biological processing of plastics to convert plastics into microbial biomass. Microbial cells are composed of over 50% protein and contain many of the required nutrients needed for nutrition. We are developing a bacterial consortium that can participate in plastic degradation and produce microbial biomass that is non-toxic and contains all the required nutrients to be used an alternative protein source. This approach of coupling of waste deconstruction with microbial build of up into biomass could provide a system for production of alternative proteins from various waste streams.