Academic Profile

Academic Profile

Prof Stefan Wuertz

Professor, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Phone: +65 65927891
Office: SBS B1N 27
Prof Stefan Wuertz

2000 Habilitation, Technical University of Munich, College of Engineering, Germany, Dr. rer. nat. habil., Thesis: “In situ analysis of
spatial structure and function of biofilms“,
1986 – 1992 Doctoral student, University of Massachusetts at Boston, Environmental Sciences Program. Ph.D. thesis: Tributyltin and tributyltin-
resistant bacteria in Boston Harbor (Massachusetts, USA)
1982 - 1986 The National University of Ireland, Galway. B.Sc. in Microbiology (Honors)

2011 – present Visiting Professor at Nanyang Technological University
2001 – present Associate and Full Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UC Davis
1998 – 2001 Administrative Director of Center of Excellence on Fundamental Studies of Aerobic Biological Wastewater Treatment, TU Munich
1995 – 2001 Head of research group ”Biofilm processes/microscopy” at the Institute of Water Quality Control and Waste Management, TUM
1994 - 1995 Research Scientist at VITO, Belgium, in charge of DNA sequencing laboratory
1992 - 1994 European Union Postdoctoral Fellowship to work on "Gene fusions and the regulation of heavy metal resistance genes" in host laboratory of Dr. Mergeay, VITO, Mol, Belgium
1986 - 1992 Research and Teaching Assistant, Univ. Massachusetts, (20 hours/week) independent of doctoral dissertation

International Water Association (IWA), American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE), American Society for Microbiology (ASM), Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP)

2007 Marie Curie Experienced Researcher Fellowship to visit Environmental Change Institute, National University of Ireland, Galway
1996 European Science Foundation Fellowship for Workshop on Integrated Process Design, Espoo, Finland
1992 – 1994 European Union Fellowship for postdoctoral work in biotechnology ”Gene fusions and the regulation of heavy metal resistance genes”
1993 Bursary of the Flemish Government for EERO Course ”Environmental technology - applied technology for bioremediation and purification”, Grobbendonk, Belgium.
1991 Fellowship to laboratory course ”Applications of nucleic acid probes in microbial ecology”, Gray Freshwater Biological Institute, Minnesota, USA.

Editor and reviewer
2003 – present Editor of Water Research, the top-ranked journal in the field of Water Resources
2004 – 2007 Associate Editor of Biodegradation
2002 – 2003 Associate Editor of Water Research
2001 – 2006 Associate Editor of Re/Views in Environmental Science and Bio/Technology

1999 – present Ad hoc reviewer for Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Environmental Microbiology, Environmental Science and Technology, Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Chemosphere, FEMS Microbiology Letters, FEMS Microbial Ecology, Molecular Ecology, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Water Research, and Water Science and Technology

1995 – 2002 Member of Editorial Board of Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology
Research Interests
The basic task of an environmental engineer engaged in water quality management is the maintenance of adequate water supplies for the benefit of society. Aspects of both quality and quantity of water are very much at the forefront of today’s challenges in the face of a changing climate and diminishing resources. For example, being able to determine the origins of fecal pollution in urban waterways is becoming increasingly important as we aim to respond to natural and man-made disasters. Knowledge about the sources of microbial and other contaminants can help mitigate their impacts and facilitate risk assessment of exposure to drinking and recreational waters, Similarly, treatment of used water requires increasingly stringent and innovative technologies that build on the discovery and exploitation of microbiological processes, such as those found in the N and P cycle.

Through the development of new tools in the life sciences it has become possible to complete whole genome analyses of microorganisms in a short period of time. Bioinformatics tools, while lagging behind in the development of technical solutions to fast and” deep” sequencing technology, are being readied to accommodate the growing need of data compilation, management and interpretation. Across the developed world engineers have begun to interact with their counterparts in the natural sciences in a search for knowledge that can result in new technology for the treatment of water and used water.

As a researcher and educator steeped in both environmental engineering and life sciences disciplines, I strongly believe in studying fundamental biological and physico-chemical processes to develop new technology that is sustainable and market-ready in the long term. My vision for the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) along with the Singapore Center on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering (SCELSE) is to train students in practical and theoretical aspects of what can truly be called environmental life sciences engineering (a new discipline coined by the directorate of SCELSE) and provide guidance to academic colleagues and postgraduate researchers at NTU.

In specific terms, my research program involves the following three thrusts:

a) Fundamental studies of biofilms and microbial communities in natural and engineered systems

The emphasis is on a complete spatial and temporal description of microbial aggregates involved in the removal of chemical constituents-of-concern using advanced imaging and pyrosequencing techniques.

b) Optimizing bioreactor treatment strategies

As chemical analytical techniques become more sophisticated, so does our knowledge about the occurrence of specific contaminants in the environment. The field of wastewater treatment has historically been based on general treatment goals using empirically derived methods in design. However, this system often fails to deliver specific treatment goals such as degradation of a specific contaminant without affecting general treatment performance. An ever increasing number of chemical contaminants are being detected in treated used water effluent and in biosolids. Therefore, knowledge of the removal mechanisms of specific contaminants as well as an in-depth understanding of overall microbial community dynamics and expression of functional genes in a reactor is necessary.

c) Protecting Public Health in Singapore

For several years I have been working on the quantitative detection of pathogens in natural (e.g. storm) waters and biosolids using procedures based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Much of this research is driven by the growing realization in the scientific and professional community that for a variety of reasons standard microbial indicators like E. coli, fecal coliforms and enterococci may be inadequate predictors of recent fecal contamination in recreational waters.
Current Projects
  • Adaptation Of Existing Biological Nutrient Removal Plants To Achieve Mainstream Complete Autotrophic Nitrogen Removal -As Demonstrated In Changi Water Reclamation Plant
  • Admission year: Jan 2013
  • Anaerobic Digestion Ecosystem Microbial Observatory (ADEMO) of Ulu Pandan Water Reclamation Plant (SCELSE)
  • Anaerobic Digestion Ecosystem Microbial Observatory (ADEMO)Of Ulu Pandan Water Reclamation Plant
  • Cluster 1 - Environmental Engineering
  • Enhanced Phosphorus Removal In The Absence Of A Chemical Precipitation Stage In An Anoxic/Aerobic Bioreactor (South Works, Ulu Pandan Water Reclamation Plant) - A Mechanistic Study (IDD 90301/1/38)
  • Initial Survey Of Biofilms As Potential Refuge For Human Pathogens And Of Biofilm-Mediated Nitrification And Denitrification In Drinking Water Distribution Networks
  • Microbe-sediment interactions in the coastal marine environment: fate and transport of pathogens relevant to health and farming
  • Postgraduate student supervised: Jean Pierre Nshimyimana
Selected Publications
  • Law, Yingyu; Matysik, Artur; Chen, Xueming; SwaThi, Sara; Nguyen, Thi Quynh Ngoc; Qiu, Guanglei; Natarajan, Gayathri; Williams, Rohan; Ni, Bing-Jie; Seviour, Thomas; Wuertz, Stefan. (2019). High dissolved oxygen selection against Nitrospira sublineage I in full-scale activated sludge. Environmental Science & Technology, .
  • E Santillan, H Seshan, F Constancias, DI Drautz-Moses, S Wuertz. (2019). Frequency of disturbance alters diversity, function, and underlying assembly mechanisms of complex bacterial communities. npj Biofilms and Microbiomes, 5:8.
  • Liu X, Arumugam K, Natarajan G, Seviour T, Drautz-Moses D, Wuertz S, Law YY, Williams, R. (2018). Draft genome sequence of a Candidatus Brocadia bacterium enriched from tropical-climate activated sludge. Genome announcements, A00406-18.
  • Hinks J, Wang Y, Poh WH, Donose BC, Thomas AW, Wuertz S, Loo SC, Bazan GC, Kjelleberg S, Mu Y, Seviour T. (2014). Modeling cell membrane perturbation by molecules designed for transmembrane electron transfer. Langmuir, 30(9), 2429-2440.

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