Roseanne M. Ford

Primary Appointment

  • Professor, Chemical Engineering


Research Interest(s)

Bacterial attachment and biofilms, microbial transport in porous media

Research Description

Our research focuses on the application of chemical engineering principles to problems in microbial ecology. The aim is to develop a fundamental understanding of mechanisms underlying microbial behavior which will provide insights for future technological innovation.

Fundamental Studies of Bacterial Chemotaxis To increase their chances for survival, populations of motile bacteria are able to direct their migration toward chemicals which are beneficial and away from substances detrimental to their survival. This ability to sense and respond to chemical gradients is known as bacterial chemotaxis. A quantitative characterization of this transport phenomenon is critical for assessing its importance in microbial processes such as nitrogen fixation, the development of infection, and the growth of biofilms on medical implants and marine surfaces. Our approach involves a combination of experimental measurements, rigorous mathematical modeling and direct simulation of bacterial population dynamics at the cellular level.

Bioremediation of Hazardous Wastes Bioremediation technology exploits the natural degradative processes of microorganisms for the purpose of cleaning up chemical wastes. This technology is superior to more conventional treatment schemes because it results in a permanent solution in which the waste is chemically transformed instead of concentrated or contained. The effectiveness of in situ bioremediation can be limited by the accessibility of the contaminant to the bacteria which are degrading it. Chemotaxis is one mechanism which might be exploited to bring the contaminant and bacteria into close contact and thereby increase the overall effectiveness of bioremediation. Our research involves investigating microbial transport limitations on the overall rates of in situ biodegradation and strategies for overcoming these limitations. The Computational Laboratory for Environmental Biotechnology was established to simulate remediation strategies and evaluate their effectiveness prior to implementation.

Selected Publications

  • Wang X, Atencia J, Ford R. Quantitative analysis of chemotaxis towards toluene by Pseudomonas putida in a convection-free microfluidic device. Biotechnology and bioengineering. 2014;112(5): 896-904. PMID: 25408100
  • Toepfer J, Ford R, Metge D, Harvey R. Impact of fluorochrome stains used to study bacterial transport in shallow aquifers on motility and chemotaxis of Pseudomonas species. FEMS microbiology ecology. 2012;81(1): 163-71. PMID: 22404159
  • Wang X, Long T, Ford R. Bacterial chemotaxis toward a NAPL source within a pore-scale microfluidic chamber. Biotechnology and bioengineering. 2012;109(7): 1622-8. PMID: 22252781
  • Liu J, Ford R, Smith J. Idling time of motile bacteria contributes to retardation and dispersion in sand porous medium. Environmental science & technology. 2011;45(9): 3945-51. PMID: 21456575
  • Strobel K, McGowan S, Bauer R, Griebler C, Liu J, Ford R. Chemotaxis increases vertical migration and apparent transverse dispersion of bacteria in a bench-scale microcosm. Biotechnology and bioengineering. 2011;108(9): 2070-7. PMID: 21495010
  • Kusy K, Ford R. Surface association of motile bacteria at granular porous media interfaces. Environmental science & technology. 2009;43(10): 3712-9. PMID: 19544878
  • Long T, Ford R. Enhanced transverse migration of bacteria by chemotaxis in a porous T-sensor. Environmental science & technology. 2009;43(5): 1546-52. PMID: 19350933
  • Wang M, Ford R. Quantitative analysis of transverse bacterial migration induced by chemotaxis in a packed column with structured physical heterogeneity. Environmental science & technology. 2009;44(2): 780-6. PMID: 20000726 | PMCID: PMC2811373
  • Wang M, Ford R, Harvey R. Coupled effect of chemotaxis and growth on microbial distributions in organic-amended aquifer sediments: observations from laboratory and field studies. Environmental science & technology. 2008;42(10): 3556-62. PMID: 18546689