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Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, who has degrees in industrial biochemical engineering and environmental engineering, is doing advanced research in the use of microbial systems for bioenergy production, water treatment and health care applications. Photo: Jessica Slater/ASU

The Phoenix Business Journal has named ASU’s Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown to its 2012 “Forty Under 40” list recognizing young leaders in the metropolitan area. Krajmalnik-Brown is a researcher who uses new genomic-based tools to enable microscopic organisms to clean water, produce energy and improve human health.

“My fascination with small life forms and their potential to help solve societal problems drives my research,” says Krajmalnik-Brown, who conducts her research at the Biodesign Institute’s Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology.

Krajmalnik-Brown is also an assistant professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

She is studying the link between differing microbial populations in the human gut and body weight among normal-weight individuals, those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery, and patients classified as morbidly obese.

She hopes her research in partnership with Mayo Clinic Arizona will lead to therapies to alter these gut microbes, enabling weight reduction and improved health. She is also exploring similar differences in gut microoganisms between patients with autism and those not diagnosed with the disorder.

“Dr. Krajmalnik-Brown is taking the daring and transformative step of transferring powerful tools from the realm of environmental sustainability to the realm of sustainable human health,” says Center Director and engineering faculty member Bruce Rittmann, who recruited Krajmalnik-Brown to ASU. “Her work is at the core of how we create partnerships with microorganisms so that they provide services to improve environmental sustainability.”

Krajmalnik-Brown has made significant contributions to her research team’s work with microbes to detoxify contaminated water, wastewater, sediments and soil. She also applies similar techniques and principles to improve energy generating systems.

Krajmalnik-Brown left Mexico City to study in the United States, where she completed her doctoral degree in environmental engineering at Georgia Tech University.

“The turning point in my career was not in achieving my degree, but in having the opportunity to conduct research at the Biodesign Institute,” she says. “The support and facilities here have always made me feel that if I can dream it, I can do it.

“I love my job. Dr. Rittmann has always treated me as a rising star with extreme potential, trusting me and providing plenty of opportunities to exploit and demonstrate my potential. I have learned from him that through hard, focused work and great people management skills, anything can be achieved.”

See the complete list of the “Forty Under 40” class of 2012 at

Original story on Full Circle

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