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Birthe Venø Kjellerup

Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences (2009)

Hoffberger Science Building G40


M.Sc. Environmental Engineering, Aalborg University, Denmark
Ph.D., Environmental Microbiology, Aalborg University, Denmark

Areas of Scholarly Expertise and Interest

Bacterial and fungal biofilms involved in infections, the natural environment, soil and sediment bioremediation and wastewater treatment


My research activities are focused on the microbiological topic of biofilms as they relate to either the external environment (bioremediation and clean-up of contaminated soil and sediments) or the human environment (infections and disease). Together with students, I have established a research program that focus on: a) Bioremediation of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) using biofilms in sediment and soil, where particular focus is concentrated on how biofilms can be used to enhance the microbiological activities of bacteria that perform bioremediation, thus improving the clean-up of contaminated areas making restoration of public areas to recreational activities possible; b) Multi-kingdom biofilm interactions between Staphylococcus epidermidis and Candida albicans using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model host, where focus is concentrated on how biofilms can cause chronic infections with many being non-responsive to antimicrobial therapy due to the biofilm mode of growth.

The research has been presented at regional, national and international conferences such as the annual American Society for Microbiology Maryland Branch Symposium, 10th International In Situ and On-Site Bioremediation Symposium, Euro-Biofilms, American Society for Microbiology Biofilm Meeting, Environmental Health 2013 and Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC). Research students are encouraged to present their research at meetings and several students have received awards for their presentations and have been awarded travel grants. In addition, the research results have been published in journals such as Biofouling, Microbial Ecology, Journal of Applied Microbiology, Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, Water Research, Water Science and Technology and Environmental Science and Technology.

Representative Publications

Lombard N, Ghosh U, Kjellerup BV and Sowers K (2014) Kinetics and threshold level of PCB dechlorination by a halorespiring bacterium. Environ. Sci. Tech. (in press)

Kjellerup BV, Naff C*, Edwards SJ*, Ghosh U, Baker JE and Sowers KR (2014) Effects of activated carbon on reductive dechlorination of PCBs by organohalide respiring bacteria indigenous to sediments. Water Res. 52C: 1-10.

Edwards SJ* and Kjellerup BV (2013) Applications of biofilms in bioremediation and biotransformation of persistent organic pollutants, pharmaceuticals/personal care products and heavy metals. Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 97(23): 9909-9921.

Edwards SJ* and Kjellerup BV (2012) Exploring the applications of invertebrate host-pathogen models for in vivo polymicrobial biofilm infections: A mini-review. FEMS Immunol. Med. Microbiol. 65(2): 205-214.

Kjellerup BV, Paul P, Ghosh U, May H and Sowers K (2012) Spatial distribution of PCB dechlorinating bacteria and activities in contaminated soil. Appl. Environ. Soil Sci. Article ID 584,970, 11 pages, doi:10.1155/2012/584970.

* undergraduate student co-authors

Invited Lectures/Presentations at Professional Meetings

Application of biofilm covered activated carbon particles as a microbial inoculum delivery system in weathered PCB contaminated sediment, DOD-SERDP Scientific Advisory Board Meeting, Arlington, VA, December 2013

Biofilm covered activated carbon particles enhance bioremediation of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) in sediment, 2nd International Symposium on Bioremediation and Sustainable Environmental Technologies, Jacksonville, Fl, June 2013

Our slimy friends - Biofilms at work, Invited speaker, Department of Biology, Hood College, Frederick, MD, March 2013

Application of biofilm covered activated carbon particles as a microbial inoculum delivery system for PCB bioremediation, 6th ASM Conference on Biofilms, Miami, FL, September 2013

Application of the Nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a Model for Multi Kingdom Interactions of Staphylococcus/Candida Biofilms, Montana Biofilm Meeting, Bozeman, MT, February 2012

Application of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model for Multi Kingdom Biofilm Interactions of Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans, Euro-Biofilms 2011, Copenhagen, Denmark, July 2011

Recent Student Research Projects

The use of anti-biofilm agents against the multi-kingdom biofilm consisting of Staphylococcus epidermidis and Candida albicans modeled in Caenorhabditis elegans. Clare Adams '14

Development of fluorescence staining and identification methods for bacteria located in PCB degrading biofilms in low activity environments. Freshta Akbari '15

Breakdown of polychlorinated biphenyls in biofilms consisting of Burkholderia xenovorans LB400 in the presence of activated carbon. Chiara Draghi '13

In vivo multi-kingdom biofilm model system for Stapholococci and Candida albicans using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Asia Houston '12

Awards/Significant Accomplishments

Application of Biofilm Covered Activated Carbon Particles as a Microbial Inoculum Delivery System in Weathered PCB Contaminated Sediment, Funding Agency: DOD-SERDP.  March 2014-February 2018. $1,368,000. Role: PI.

Application of biofilm covered activated carbon particles as a microbial inoculum delivery system for enhanced bioaugmentation of PCBs in contaminated sediment, Funding Agency: DOD-SERDP. March 2011-February 2013. $150,000. Role: PI.

Courses Taught

Frontiers: Your Body, Your Microbes, Your World
Introductory Biology II Lab
Environmental Alternatives
Environmental Engineering
Microbiology and Immunology
Microbiology Lab
Seminar in Microbiology - Biofilms

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