Three New Faculty Expand the Department's Expertise

Sebastian Behrens

Sebastian Behrens will join the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering and the BioTechnology institute at the University of Minnesota in Januarty 2015.

Behrens comes to the University of Minnesota after six years as a junior group leader in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Tubingen. He obtained his PhD in Microbial Ecology at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany, under Rudy Amann. Later he did postdoctoral research at Stanford University with Alfred Spormann.

Behren's research combines the disciplines of biogeochemistry, microbiology, and molecular biology to understand the basic microbial ecology principles driving the biogeochemical cycling of metals and metalloids, the biodegradation of organic contaminants, and the emission of greenhouse gases from the molecular to the ecosystem scale. "My research is focused on questions at the interface of environmental biotechnology, biogeochemistry, and microbial ecology. Through my research I gain insights into the 'lifestyle' of environmental microorganisms by linking the quantification of biogeochemical processes to the in situ activity (ecophysiology) of microorganisms at various scales relevant to microbial life in natural and engineered environments (from the gene/genome via the single cell to the population/community level)."

Behrens has experience teaching undergraduate and graduate level courses in Europe and the United States. The Department of Civil, Environmental and Geo- Engineering and the BioTechnology Institute are excited to welcome him to UMN.

Adam Boies

Adam Boies is returning to UMN; he earned his PhD degree in Mechanical Engineering here in 210 under the direction of Steve Girshick. His doctoral research concerned novel nanoparticle systhesis methods. Boies also worked with CEGE professor Julian Marshall on air pollution research. After completeing his PhD, Boies joined the faculty at Cambridge and developed a strong research group engaged in research on particles in gas streams. His group is researching emissions from transportation sources (cars and jet planes, for example) and modeling the emissions, pollutant transport, and pollutant fate in the atmosphere. His group has developed a novel device for separating semi-volatiles from gas streams to permit accurate particle measurements. This patented device resulted in the creation of a start-up company to market the technology. In other research projects, Boies is concerned with predicting changes in air pollutant emissions (e.g., greenhouse gases) that result from use of alternative fuels like ethanol. He has been involved in research funded by a private company to optimize a process for producing sheets of aligned carbon nanotubes.

In addition to his research activities, Boies has been teaching engineering courses on related topics for about three years. His goal is to help students link the engineering principles they are learning with real world understanding.

We are pleased to welcome Boies back to UMN, where his skills as an instructor and his productive and innovative research will be a great asset to areas of transportation and environmental engineering.

Santiago Romero-Vargas Castrillon

Santiago Romero-Vargas Castrillon has a B.S, an M.S, and a Ph.D degree in Chemical Engineering. His doctoral research was completed at Princeton University under the direction of Pablo Debenedetti, and it concerned the study of nano-confined, interfacial and hydration water using molecular simulation. Romero-Vargas has most recently been doing post-doctoral research in environmental engineering at Yale, under the direction on Menachem Elimelech. His post-doctoral work pertained to the development of low-fouling membranes for water seperations. At UMN, he plans to establish a resarch gorup in which numerical simulation and surface analytical techniques are used to understand the interactions of colloids, biomolecules and bacteria with aqueous interfaces of environmental relevance. Romero-Vargas is looking forward to the possibilities for collaboration with environmental, water resrouces, geomechanics, and transportation (pavements) colleagues within CEGE, and with faculty in chemistry and chemical engineering.

In 2011, Romero-Vargas won the Princeton University Engineering Council Excellence in Teaching Award. At the University of Western Ontario, he was a founding member of the local chapter of Engineers Without Borders Canada.

We look forward to the excellence and experience that Romero-Vargas brings to CEGE.