Invited Speakers



Mary Beth Leigh
University of Alaska Fairbanks, Institute of Arctic Biology, Department of Biology and Wildlife, USA

Tentative title of talk:
Addressing environmental challenges through microbial and human community building​

Mary Beth Leigh is an Associate Professor of Microbiology in the Institute of Arctic Biology and the Department of Biology & Wildlife at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (USA). Some of her research interests include biodegradation of oil and dispersants in Arctic seawater, biodegradation of groundwater contaminants, the use of plants and microbes to remediate contaminated soils (phytoremediation), methane oxidation in Arctic lakes, and boreal forest ecology. She also organizes efforts to foster collaboration between the environmental sciences, arts, and humanities and produces art-science exhibits and performances for the public. Prior to joining UAF in 2006, Leigh earned her Ph.D. in Microbiology at the University of Oklahoma and conducted postdoctoral research at Michigan State University and the NERC Center for Ecology and Hydrology, Oxford. 


Michel Sylvestre 
Institut national de la recherche scientifique, Laval, Québec, Canada

Tentative title of talk:
Searching for a winning bioprocess to remediate PCBs

Michel Sylvestre is now Professor Honorarium at Institut National de la Recherche (Institut-Armand-Frappier) in Laval, Québec, Canada. He obtained is Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, USA) in 1974 and since then he has been professor at Institut Armand-Frappier, from where he retired in 2016. He devoted is career to the area of Environmental Biotechnology, addressing the problem of persistent pollutants degradation. He worked on projects aiming at engineering bacteria and enzymes to degrade persistent pollutants, and especially Polychlorinated Biphenyls.  He got also interested in understanding how plants interact with bacteria to promote the catalytic activities of the bacterial enzymes involved in the degradation of persistent pollutants.



Nicolas Kalogerakis
Technical University of Crete (TUC)
School of Environmental Engineering, Polytechneioupolis, 73100, Chania, Greece

Tentative title of talk:
Biodegradation kinetics of weathered marine litter – polyethylene and polystyrene plastic films

Nicolas Kalogerakis is a Professor of Biochemical Engineering and Vice-President of the University Council at the Technical University of Crete. Prior to that he was a Professor at SUNY-Buffalo (USA) and at the Univ. of Calgary (Canada). He holds a Diploma in Chemical Engineering from NTUA (Athens), a Masters from McGill University and a PhD from the Univ. of Toronto. His area of expertise includes environmental biotechnology focusing on bioremediation and phytoremediation technologies for the restoration of contaminated sites; protection and restoration of the marine environment; novel oxygenation systems and wastewater treatment; and mathematical modeling of environmental processes. Currently his group is participating in 4 EU funded research projects (two FP7 & two H2020) and he is the coordinator of the FP7-project KILL*SPILL. Prof. Kalogerakis’ publication record includes four patents, one book, 170 papers in referred journals and more than 150 presentations at international conferences. He has more than 5500 citations (WoS) with a H-index of 40. He has served as a member of the EC Environment Committee and as sherpa in the EC, High Level Group on Key Enabling Technologies (2013-2015).


Kelly Pennell
Department of Civil Engineering, University of Kentucky, USA

Tentative title of talk:
Vapor Intrusion of Volatile Organic Compounds from Soil and Groundwater into Indoor Air: The Role of Aerobic Biodegradation

Kelly G. Pennell, PhD, PE is an associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Kentucky and is a licensed professional engineer (PE).  Prior to joining the University of Kentucky, from 2010-2013, she was an assistant professor at University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. From 2005-2010, she was research faculty at Brown University in the School of Engineering. She holds degrees in Civil/Environmental Engineering from Lawrence Technological University (BS 1997), Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (MS 2001) and Purdue University (PhD 2005). Her research is focused on contaminant fate and transport processes and environmental health policy decision making. Her research incorporates computational modeling approaches as well as field and laboratory data. 

Liz Rylott
Centre for Novel Agricultural Products, University of York, Great Britain

Tentative title of talk:
Employing plants to remove the environmental pollutant 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT)​​

Liz obtained her PhD in Plant Genetics and Biochemistry at the John Innes Centre, and has now worked at the University of York for a number of years. Her research interests include studying the mechanisms of xenobiotic-induced stress responses in plants, the use of GM and synthetic biology technologies for the phytoremediation of organic xenobiotics; and manipulating metal uptake, transport and storage by plants.

Pieter Van Dillewijn 
Environmental Microbiology and Biodegradation Group
Department of Environmental Protection, Estación Experimental del Zaidín, Spanish High Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), Granada, SPAIN


Tentative title of talk:
Plant microbiomes and organic pollutants

Pieter van Dillewijn is a Tenured Scientist of the Spanish High Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) at the Estación Experimental del Zaidín (EEZ) in Granada, Spain. He obtained his degree in Biology from the Leiden University (the Netherlands) and received his PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Granada. During his predoctoral period at the EEZ he studied plant-microorganism interactions within the rhizobia-legume symbiosis. After joining the Environmental Microbiology and Biodegradation group in the same research center, he has been specializing in the biodegradation of aromatic pollutants. Currently, he is involved in projects which use genomics and metagenomics to study the microbial diversity in soil and the rhizosphere and to find activities against organic and emerging pollutants.

Kim Yrjälä 
University of Helsinki, Finland

Tentative title of talk:
The Struggle with the Gap Between Phylogeny and Function, Bacterial Sequences and Real Bacteria​​

Kim Yrjälä is Adjunct Professor in Environmental Microbiology, Department of Biosciences at the University of Helsinki. He studied biochemistry at Åbo Akademi (Åbo/Turku) and got his PhD in microbiology at the University of Helsinki. He is the leader of the MEM-group (Molecular environmental microbiology group) in Viikki Biocenter at Viikki campus. The MEM-group has done pioneering work on methane producing archaea (methanogens) in Finnish peatlands, work on bioremediation of polluted soils and studied the process of phytoremediation of hydrocarbon pollutants. For elucidating effects of agro technology on microbial communities in arable soil and studies of plant microbe interactions (mainly woody plants) next generation sequencing has been utilized. The uniting factor for research is the recognition of the extensive microbial diversity to reveal the functionally important microbes in different ecosystems. He is applying research findings and is founder of environmental biotechnology, Populus Group Oy Start up, at the Viikki campus. He is a member of the board of Mutku ry (Polluted Soil Research and Remediation) and NENUN (Nordic Environmental Nucleotide Network).

Masaki (Masa) Shintani
Shizuoka University, Applied Chemistry and Biochemical Engineering Course
Department of Engineering, Graduate School of Integrated Science and Technology, JAPAN
University of Vienna, Department of Microbiology and Ecosystem Science
Division of Microbial Ecology

Tentative title of talk:
Behaviors of plasmids in soil microcosms

Masaki (Masa) Shintani is an Associate Professor of Graduate School of Integrated Science and Technology, Shizuoka University, Japan. He is also a guest scientist in Department of Microbiology and Ecosystem Science, University of Vienna, Austria. He received a Ph.D. degree from the University of Tokyo, Japan in 2006. He was a postdoctoral fellow (2006-2008) and a project assistant professor in the University of Tokyo (2008-2010), and a special postdoctoral fellow in RIKEN, Japan (2010-2012). His research interests are biodegradation of polyaromatic hydrocarbons, behaviors of mobile genetic elements containing degradative plasmids in various environments, and effect(s) of plasmid on its host cells.