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Masdar Institute Offers Research on Biological Wastewater Treatment Processes for Summer Internship Program

Biochemistry, Microbiology, Cell/Molecular Biology, General Biology, or Biotechnology Students Encouraged to Take Up Project Opportunity

Abu Dhabi-UAE: 10 May, 2012 – Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, an independent, research-driven graduate-level university focused on advanced energy and sustainable technologies, today announced biological wastewater treatment processes will be one of the project options offered for summer internship this year.

The project titled ‘Phylogenetics for Mixed Microbial Cultures” will be offered under the six-week internship program. Students interested in this particular area of research can submit applications online through the Masdar Institute website.

The objective of this project is to determine the community profile that involves the field of phylogenetics. In phylogenetics, a particular evolutionary gene marker is analyzed from a DNA sample that has been extracted from a mixed microbial community. The marker typically examined for prokaryotes (single-celled organisms) is the gene for the 16s ribosomal RNA (16s rRNA), which is considered to be unique for every known species. Separating the different 16s rRNA genes for a DNA sample from a mixed culture of microorganisms helps to determine the population make-up of the sample.

Mixed-culture biological processes, such as bioremediation, biomineralization, and wastewater treatment often rely on cumulative metabolic pathways of a community of organisms to achieve their goals. Disruption in the makeup of the community through toxic shock or other environmental stressors can affect the performance of the overall process. Hence, it is essential to know the identity of the types of organisms present in a mixed-culture biological process.

Graduates and senior-level undergraduate students majoring in Biochemistry, Microbiology, Cell/Molecular Biology, General Biology, Biotechnology, Biochemical Engineering will be preferred for this project.

Student interns who take up this project will be tasked with learning and performing phylogenetic techniques like polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). They will also be asked to assist Research Engineer in the analysis of experimental samples and review environmental micro- and molecular-biology literature.

The summer internship program that offers over 15 project opportunities is scheduled to begin from 1 July. The deadline for submitting applications closed on 3 May.

Dr. Farrukh Ahmad, Associate Professor, Water and Environmental Engineering, Masdar Institute, said: “Microbial community analysis in water using phylogenetics and other molecular biology tools can tell us the effectiveness of biological wastewater treatment processes, and can also help in pathogen detection in reclaimed water.  We are offering this project as part of the summer internship so that students understand the DNA structure of biological processes and find effective means of finding a solution.

“This year’s summer internship program offers a wide spectrum of areas for research which, we are confident, will be interesting to the students. We thank the UAE’s wise leadership for their support in creating the right learning tools and techniques for students at Masdar Institute.”

Dr. Ahmad holds a PhD in Environmental Engineering from Rice University, US, and undergraduate degrees in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. He has to his credit several publications in peer-reviewed journals as well as in refereed conference proceedings.

Other projects that are being offered for internship include ‘Development of Advanced Amine-Based Solvents for CO2 Post-Combustion Capture’, ‘MATLAB Simulation Development for Power Grid Systems Simulations and Applications Designed Filters for Applications in Solar Cells’, ‘Solar Cell Technologies and Applications for Desalination and Renewable Energy’, and ‘Cost Comparisons of Renewable and Fossil Fuel Technologies’.

Established as an ongoing collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Masdar Institute integrates theory and practice to incubate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, working to develop the critical thinkers and leaders of tomorrow.  With its world-class faculty and top-tier students, the Institute is committed to finding solutions to the challenges of clean energy and climate change through education and research.

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