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Science AMA Series: I’m Jonathan Sakkos, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota. I trap bacteria within porous materials for cleaning pollutants from water. AMA!
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Hi Reddit! I’m Jonathan Sakkos, a mechanical engineering PhD candidate. I’m a member of the Bioencapsulation Laboratory in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the BioTechnology Institute at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I study bioencapsulation (physical confinement) of bacteria within porous silica gels for cleaning pollutants from water in collaboration with Professor Wackett in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics. Bacteria have a wonderful ability to eat many harmful chemicals (especially hydrocarbons) found in water as a result of millions of years of evolution. I study the interface between the biology and the material as well as the diffusion of chemicals within the material in order to harness the unique abilities of bacteria in an efficient manner. We recently published a paper in Biotechnology and Bioengineering entitled “Engineering of a silica encapsulation platform for hydrocarbon degradation using Pseudomonas sp. NCIB 9816-4” in which we encapsulated a bacterium which is known to biodegrade (eat) over 100 pollutants and optimized the material to be as strong and porous as possible while keeping our bacteria happy . Our lab has also studied the biodegradation of atrazine, a very popular herbicide, by encapsulated bacteria. I’ll be here at 1 pm ET (10 am PT, 6 pm UT) to answer your questions. Ask me anything about bioencapsulation and what bacteria can do for you! 3 pm CDT: I have some lab work to do, but I’ll check back later this afternoon. Thanks for all of the thoughtful questions. 6 pm CDT: I’m signing off. This has been fun and thanks for the great questions!