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Improving phosphorus removal and recovery by leveraging transformation and biosorption processes

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Monday, September 26, 2022, 3 pm– 4 pm

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Environmental Engineering Graduate Seminar

Brooke Mayer, PhD, PE, Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, Marquette University


On a global scale, there is an ironic overabundance, yet simultaneous paucity, of phosphorus (P). As a rate-limiting nutrient, excess P is responsible for eutrophication, the leading cause of freshwater impairment. Conversely, P is vital to global food security as it sustains high agricultural productivity. P’s paradoxical dual identities as a pollutant and essential nonrenewable resource provide a compelling opportunity to implement the waste-to-resource paradigm. Unfortunately, conventional wastewater treatments are incapable of satisfying new sustainability metrics in diverse water matrices, including removing P to ultra-low levels and recovering it as a valuable resource. Bioinspired approaches to water and wastewater treatment can help. In this talk, I will discuss the use of immobilized P-binding proteins as highly selective and sensitive bioadsorbents. Characterized by high affinity, rapid and preferential P sorption, and reversible binding, this approach facilitates P removal as well as recovery. I will also talk about P speciation in aquatic systems, and how transformation of recalcitrant fractions to more reactive forms can assist P removal and recovery.


Dr. Brooke Mayer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering at Marquette University. She graduated from Arizona State University (BS in 2004, MS in 2006, PhD in 2008) with an emphasis in Environmental Engineering. Dr. Mayer’s teaching and research interests focus on physical-chemical treatment processes for water and wastewater applications, including the mitigation of nutrients, pathogens, and disinfection byproducts. Her research emphasizes improved public health and safety as well as advancing the waste-to-resource paradigm. For her work in these areas, Dr. Mayer was recognized with an NSF CAREER award as well as Marquette University’s Opus College of Engineering Outstanding Researcher Award. She is currently a co-director of Education and Human Resources and project investigator for the Science and Technologies for Sustainable Phosphorus (STEPS) Center supported through the NSF’s Science and Technology (STC) program.

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