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Judd Larson

University of Wyoming, Ph.D.
EREF Scholar 2015

Stimulating Autoinduction of Biofilm Growth to Enhance Cellulose Stabilization

Project Description:
Research into bacterial quorum sensing has revealed that self-produced chemical signals, called autoinducers, have been linked to the induction of biofilm growth, among other phenotypes such as virulence, swarming motility, antibiotic resistance, competence, and extracellular polymeric substance production. The solubilization of the organic fraction of municipal solid waste (OFMSW) is the rate-limiting step in the anaerobic biological stabilization process and is rate-limited by the amount of attached biofilm. Judd Larson’s research focuses on enhancing the anaerobic solubilization rate of the OFMSW by stimulating the autoinduction of more biofilm growth. Since autoinducer-2 (AI-2) is an interspecies quorum sensing molecule linked to inducing biofilm formation and anaerobic solid waste biodegradation is conducted by a multi-species consortium of bacteria and archaea, Judd’s research focuses on measuring and stimulating AI-2 production to enhance biofilm growth and increase biodegradation rates.  Furthermore, since cellulose and hemicelluloses make up between 45% to 75% of the dry weight of MSW and are 90% of its methane potential, Judd’s research focuses on enhancing the solubilization of cellulose.

The specific objectives of his research are to:

  1. Identify microbial stressors that can enhance AI-2 production and anaerobic cellulolytic biofilm growth.
  2. Measure the increased rate of cellulose solubilization due to enhanced biofilm growth from AI-2 stimulation and AI-2 addition.
  3. Determine the types and amounts of the major cellulose degradation products from enhanced biofilm growth and compare to that of the non-stimulated systems.
  4. Measure the increased rate of methane production due to enhanced biofilm growth.
  5. Predict the increased degradation rates of solid waste from enhanced biofilms.

Judd Larson was born in Lenoir, North Carolina and raised in Bradenton, Florida. He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Florida in Environmental Engineering Sciences in 2004 and 2006, respectively. For his Master’s thesis, Judd had the unique opportunity to have a 48-acre bioreactor landfill as his laboratory, where he studied the pressure-flow relationships of different horizontal injection line designs. He then moved to Columbus, Ohio, to work at CDM (now CDM-Smith) where he had the good fortune to work with a tremendous group of people on a variety of civil and environmental projects involving solid and hazardous waste design and engineering, storm water quality analysis and hydraulic modeling, sanitary sewer inflow and infiltration, wastewater treatment plant design and engineering, water treatment plant design and engineering, potable water pipeline design and construction, trenchless technologies, air quality analysis, groundwater remediation, and environmental life cycle analyses.

Final Dissertation