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Kevin Sowers wearing PPE in front of water at a contaminated site

Dr. Kevin Sowers (UMBC-IMET) and Dr. Upal Ghosh (UMBC) have already developed a technology that can remove harmful compounds from waterways and sediments. A recent grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) will help them improve that technology and expand their impact.

Using a group of specially selected microbes and activated carbon, the team has proven that they can remove polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from sediments through a process called bioremediation. PCBs were banned in 1979 due to their toxicity, yet they remain in sediments and can enter the food chain, threatening both ecological and human health. Sowers and Ghosh founded the venture RemBac Environmental to apply their research to restoring contaminated sites and were named UMBC’s Entrepreneurs of the Year in 2019 for this work.

To evaluate the effectiveness of different materials, Sowers and Ghosh will conduct trial studies of graphite and activated carbon from bituminous coal and coconut shells. Ghosh brings a deep knowledge of materials science that will aid in this evaluation. Sowers brings decades of research on microbes that degrade chlorinated compounds.

With funding from NIEHS, Sowers and Ghosh will continue to improve their technology by answering questions like, “Are there materials that would be more effective for bioremediation? Would different materials be best for certain pollutants or areas?”

two images from field test sites: scientists in PPE add to water as part of the bioremediation process

To expand the applications of this lab work, an ecological modeler joined the team. Dr. Amar Wadhawan, Senior Environmental Engineer with Arcadis, will create models to integrate an improved understanding of materials for bioremediation with information about specific site conditions. This will help scientists and environmental engineers create targeted solutions for project sites.

The overall impact of this new grant will be to improve our fundamental understanding of the interactions of microbes and different surfaces and improve the process for cleaning up sediment and groundwater. Sowers said, “This project will enable development of a platform that combines tailored materials with microbial activity to optimize bioremediation of PCBs in different environments.” With improved technology and modeling, remediation of Superfund sites and other contaminated areas will be easier and more effective, helping to create a healthier planet.

New MIPS Award to Vakharia and Larkin

Feb 12, 2021

With a new grant from the Maryland Industrial Parternships (MIPS) program, UMBC-IMET Professor Dr. Vikram Vakharia has teamed up with IMET alum Dr. Mary Larkin and her company, Gaskiya Diagonstics, to develop inexpensive tests to diagnose pathogens in aquaculture. “Farmers need to test their ponds and get instant information so that they can quickly take action and mitigate disease,” says Larkin.

Read the full story on UMBC News


Dr. Yonathan Zohar to partner with aquaculture giant AquaCon in Maryland

Jul 09, 2020

A new MOU between UMBC, IMET, and AquaCon establishes a collaboration on developing land-based aquaculture in Maryland. AquaCon made this decision after meeting with Dr. Yonathan Zohar and touring the Aquaculture Research Center, seeing all the innovation that will help them as they build up a new aquaculture facility. An article on UMBC News explains this collaboration, as well as the importance of Silfra BioSystems, a company started by Dr. Zohar and Dr. Kevin Sowers, to manage fish waste in aquaculture, and an NSF grant to Dr. Zohar for research on fish reproduction.

“It’s a perfect storm in a good sense, because everything is falling in place now,” says Zohar. “I’ve been working in Maryland for almost 30 years, and we’ve been developing a lot of these technologies. Our mission is research, education, and economic development, and we have been working to create connections between academia and industry to fulfill that mission.”

Read the full story on UMBC News

Read coverage in the Baltimore Sun

Read coverage in the Baltimore Business Journal

Read Coverage in Undercurrent News

Ryan McDonald, Ph.D.

The Department of Marine Biotechnology would like to congratulate Ryan McDonald for being recognized by his mentor Dr. Hal Schreier with the Outstanding Graduating PhD Student Award.

Dr. McDonald graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) on May 21 with a degree in Biological Sciences. He is currently working at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) as an Assistant Scientist in Dr. J. Sook Chung’s lab.

Salmon Aquaculture Network Project Underway

Mar 25, 2020

IMET-UMBC Faculty and Director of ARC Dr. Yonathan Zohar is the lead P.I. on the Recirculating Aquaculture Salmon Network (RAS-N). RAS-N, which was awarded a $1.2 million grant, is a national public-private partnership that brings together many partners to build capacity for land-based Atlantic salmon aquaculture in the US. At the end of 2019, the group convened in Wisconsin for their first annual meeting. In February of this year, RAS-N organized a dedicated Salmon RAS session at the Aquaculture America 2020 conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, where several partners and others presented their progress. You can read more about the project and these meetings on the Maryland SeaGrant Blog.


Dr. Colleen Burge invited to speak at UTA

Arlington, TX (October 22, 2015)Dr. Colleen Burge, an Assistant Professor at IMET, was invited to give a lecture at the University of Texas at Arlington as part of their colloquium lecture series. Dr. Burge’s lecture, titled “Host-Pathogen Interactions in a Changing Ocean”, discussed her research on diseases in sea stars and oysters, and the effects they have on the marine environment. Please watch the video above for more coverage on Dr. Burge’s lecture.


BARD Fund honors UMBC’s Yonathan Zohar

for aquaculture research with $12B global economic impact

Science & Technology November 24, 2020 Sarah Hansen The Binational Agricultural Research Development (BARD) Fund, a partnership program between the U.S. and Israel, has...

Posted: November 25, 2020, 10:10 AM

Award for Dr. Ryan McDonald

The Department of Marine Biotechnology would like to congratulate Ryan McDonald for being recognized by his mentor Dr. Hal Schreier with the Outstanding Graduating PhD Student Award. Dr....

Posted: May 29, 2020, 4:10 PM

Salmon Aquaculture Network Project Underway

Maryland Sea Grant • February 13, 2020 Last fall we became lead partners with University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), in a multi-state consortium to receive a $1.2 million grant to...

Posted: March 25, 2020, 2:40 PM

Future Entrepreneurs

Featuring of of Our Own: Sakura Tanaka

Opening Doors to Entrepreneurship Sep 30, 2019 Dr. Nina Lamba joined the team at IMET in March of this year as the Assistant Director. In this role, she directs the...

Posted: October 15, 2019, 1:27 PM

UMBC's Entrepreneurs of the Year:

Kevin Sowers and Upal Ghosh

Oct 10, 2019 Dr. Kevin Sowers and Dr. Upal Ghosh were honored for their entrepreneurial work at the UMBC Inventors Luncheon. Read about all the awardees and see more photos on the...

Posted: October 15, 2019, 12:37 PM

IMET-DMB Student Life

DMB's Graduate Students Attended the 12th Annual International Marine Biotechnology Conference and the Asia Pacific Marine Biotechnology Conference 9 September - 13 September Shizuoka, Japan...

Posted: September 30, 2019, 3:43 PM

NOAA Sea Grant Award

New US salmon RAS network gets $1.2m headstart from NOAA Sea Grant By Jason Huffman Sep. 19, 2019 16:37 BST Yonathon Zohar, chair of the University of Maryland Baltimore Campus...

Posted: September 20, 2019, 1:28 PM

Maryland Sea Grant, UMBC Awarded $1.2 Million

National Aquaculture Grant

September 19, 2019 ​COLLEGE PARK and BALTIMORE, Md. (Sept. 19, 2019) – Maryland Sea Grant and University of Maryland, Baltimore County, are lead partners in a multi-state consortium to...

Posted: September 20, 2019, 10:00 AM

Avoiding Empty Oceans:Sustainable Aquaculture and the Future

Feeding the World

October 01, 2019 at 5:30pm to at 7:00pm Speaker:  Yonathan Zohar This is a free event. Please join us at 5:30pm for a light reception and 6:00pm for the lecture.  Avoiding Empty...

Posted: September 3, 2019, 1:13 PM