Researcher Receives Paul L. Busch Award

The WERF Endowment for Innovation in Applied Water Quality Research presented the Paul L. Busch Award to Daniel Noguera, PhD, at its annual subscriber luncheon at WEFTEC®.05. Noguera was selected for his innovative research in the field of microbiology and environmental engineering, as well as his role as a mentor to young scientists and aspiring researchers. The Paul L. Busch award carries with it a $100,000 research grant that will aid Noguera in furthering this important work.

Noguera and his team at the University of Wisconsin -- Madison are aggressively seeking the isolation of phosphate accumulating organisms (PAO) responsible for the enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR) that occurs at many of the world's wastewater treatment facilities. By pursuing innovative approaches to isolate and study these microorganisms, Noguera hopes to obtain isolates of the primary PAO, Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphates, as well as secondary PAOs, to develop novel, cost-effective, and reliable EBPR processes.

At first glance this seems a relatively simple task, yet these microorganisms have proven to be elusive, confounding researchers' best efforts to isolate them in pure culture for decades. Instead of following previous attempts to isolate PAO by duplicating the activated sludge environment within an enhanced biological phosphorus removal reactor, Noguera and his team intend to reproduce what these microorganisms might be doing in their natural environment. For example, genetic study has shown photosynthetic activity outside of the treatment plant, so phototrophic enrichments will be one of the main culturing conditions.

"Despite 30 years of engineering and refinement to the EBPR process, we still know relatively little about the various microorganisms responsible for the removal of phosphorus from the wastewater stream," said Glenn Reinhardt, executive director for the Water Environment Research Foundation. "What Noguera is attempting to do could have a substantial impact on the cost, performance, and reliability of phosphorous removal at our wastewater treatment facilities."

Daniel Noguera has been with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Wisconsin -- Madison since 1997. The University recently recognized Noguera's leadership and accomplishments, naming him a Vilas Associate of the graduate school for the period 2003-2005. In addition to his many accomplishments in the field, Noguera participates in several programs aimed at promoting equity and diversity in the engineering profession.

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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