Regents' Professor receives inaugural award for promoting interdisciplinary research

September 25, 2014

ASU Regents' Professor Bruce Rittmann flew across the Atlantic this week to accept an award of which he is the first winner: the 2014 ISME/IWA Bio Cluster Award.

"I am really, really thrilled about this," said Rittmann, who was honored Sept. 25, in Lisbon, Portugal, at the International Water Association Congress, for his outstanding leadership in promoting interdisciplinary research between the microbial ecology and the water and wastewater treatment fields. ASU Regents' Professor Bruce Rittmann Download Full Image

The inaugural award is being jointly presented by the IWA, the leading water organization worldwide, and the International Society of Microbial Ecology (ISME).

"I'm thrilled about this because this joining of engineering with microbiology is what I do," said Rittmann. "It's what I've been doing for essentially my entire career."

Rittmann is an international leader in using microbes found in nature in innovative ways that can benefit the environment or human health. His research team tackles some of the world’s leading problems related to water, waste and energy. Their research projects include pollution cleanup, treating water and wastewater, capturing renewable energy, and understanding how microbes in the digestive system may be linked to obesity and autism, as well as other efforts.

Rittmann’s research focuses on the scientific and engineering fundamentals needed to manage microbial communities to provide services to society.

“It’s individual organisms comprising a community that’s working together,” said Rittmann. “And now we have a chance to really manage that community to get the right organisms doing the right job.”

His research team developed the membrane biofilm reactor, a technology now being commercialized to destroy a wide range of pollutants found in waters and wastewaters. This technology can remove harmful contaminants such as perchlorate, nitrates, and arsenate from water and soils – problems that are vital to the future of the Southwest, where Colorado River water is used by seven states.

Rittmann is also part of an ASU research team using two innovative approaches to renewable bioenergy: harnessing anaerobic microbes to convert biomass to useful energy forms, such as methane, hydrogen, or electricity; and using photosynthetic bacteria or algae to capture sunlight and produce new biomass that can be turned into liquid fuels, like biodiesel.

Most of the services make our society more environmentally sustainable: e.g., generating renewable energy, and making polluted water and soil clean. The microbial services also make humans healthier – directly and indirectly.

Rittmann and colleagues were the first to link the modern tools of molecular microbial ecology to understanding and improving the performance microorganism-based water technologies. Researchers in the Swette Center apply the most advanced tools of molecular microbial ecology, chemistry, microscopy, and mathematical modeling to think like the microorganisms and, in turn, create systems that allow the microorganisms to provide beneficial services ranging from sustainable environmental processes, to nutrient and energy recovery, to making humans healthier.

Rittmann is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, the International Water Association, and the Water Environment Federation.

Britt Lewis

Interim Communications Director, ASU Library

ASU dance season kicks off with 'Known and Unknown'

September 25, 2014

The School of Film, Dance and Theatre presents “Known and Unknown,” the kick-off event of the ASU dance season, featuring nine works created by an impressive roster of ASU faculty, musicians and local artists. Using a range of dance and media platforms, these imaginative artists venture into the worlds of science, perception and ritual. The event will take place at the Galvin Theatre, behind the ASU Art Museum, at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 26; 7:30 p.m., Sept. 27; and 2 p.m., Sept. 28.

The concert includes ASU premieres by faculty members Larry Caves, Mary Fitzgerald, John Mitchell, Jessica Rajko, Melissa Rex, Karen Schupp, Eileen Standley and Christian Ziegler. Joined by Datura and J.A.Movement performance media ensembles, sound/video artist Casey Farina and other local performers too numerous to mention, this show captures the full spectrum of contemporary dance offered at ASU. dancer Jessica Rajko interacts with a video piece by Casey Farina Download Full Image

“What is remarkable about this concert is the range of aesthetics presented, from highly experimental dance and media pieces to physically charged, Afro-Brazilian and Latin/ballroom fusions,” says Mary Fitzgerald, artistic director for the school's MainStage season. “I think this demonstrates some of the most current trends in the field and showcases the artistic breadth of the program.”

In addition to the works on stage, the evening includes pre-show, intermission and post-show film installations in the lobby and outside of the theater, as well as a dance and media piece in the Dance Laboratory. Audience members are given an opportunity to see the works from an intimate perspective and engage with the artists informally throughout the evening.

“There really is something for everyone in this show,” Fitzgerald says. “Many of the pieces are inspired by complex scientific concepts, such as brain neurogenesis, perception and physics, while others celebrate the pure physicality of movement in high energy ensemble works. The rich collaborations between choreographers, dancers, musicians and filmmakers take the concert to an entirely different level of creativity.”

Also new this year is a suite of Latin and ballroom ensemble pieces directed by senior lecturer Larry Caves. Cast members will lead adventurous audience members in a social dance class at the reception on opening night.

Ticket prices are: $16, general admission; $12, ASU faculty, staff and alumni; $12, senior; $8, student. Special discount: $5 admission for high school students (please bring ID).

Media contact:

Deborah Sussman Susser

Communications and media specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts