The Atlantic interviews Bruce Rittmann, Regents’ Professor, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment.
Had he not grown up during the time of the first Earth Day and the Vietnam War—and had those events not pushed him to want to make major improvements for society—Bruce Rittmann might have used his degree in engineering to design bridges and other civic structures. Instead, he is working as the director of the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, and trying to find replacements for the fossil fuels we’re quickly running out of. A leader in managing microbial communities (more on that later), Rittmann is also working to treat water and clean up pollution.
Here, Rittmann discusses a revolutionary innovation that directs photosynthesis to make fuel molecules as a potential substitute for petroleum; the ideal win-win situation, a partnership between microbial workers and human managers; and how working out in the gym has turned him on to country music videos and Reba McEntire.