Dr. Douglas Call

Dr. Douglas Call

Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering

Phone: 919-515-6455
Fax: 919-515-7908
Instructor Website
Research Website

CE 573 Biological Principles of Environmental Engineering

3 Credit Hours

CE 573 prepares you to use fundamental biological principles to analyze important biological processes in environmental engineering. The principles will be applied to: biological treatment of municipal and industrial wastes, public health microbiology, and microbial ecology of engineered and natural systems. The course will cover basic microbiology (what is a cell?), survey key microbial groups and their metabolisms (how do they make a living?), cover biodegradation/catabolism of the basic macromolecules (carbohydrates, lipids, proteins), and introduce microbial ecology concepts, including molecular approaches.


Background in basic biology or microbiology will be helpful, but not required or consent of instructor. The course will be taught as an introductory course in microbiology, i.e., there is no course prerequisite. However, it is a graduate course, and I expect you to do the required readings and pursue further readings in unfamiliar areas.

Course Objectives

At the end of this class, you will be able to:

  • Differentiate microorganisms according to their metabolism (e.g., electron acceptors, electron donors), describe the main characteristics of key or example species within each functional grouping, and describe the environmental reactions mediated by these species.
  • Explain how organisms catabolize the major macromolecules (carbohydrates, lipids, hydrocarbons, and proteins).
  • Describe the relationship between redox, thermodynamics, and microbial growth.
  • List common strategies employed by microorganisms to survive in natural and engineered ecosystems, and in biodegradation pathways.
  • Explain the basics of microbial genetics and molecular phylogeny, particularly comparative rRNA sequence analysis.
  • Describe the operational concepts behind molecular biology tools in environmental microbiology.

Evaluate scientific papers in environmental microbiology. Describe the problem, describe the operational concepts behind the methods used, explain the main findings.

Course Requirements

Homework Assignments: Several problem sets

Examinations: The course requirements include three 1-hour exams and one final exam.

Projects: 10-page paper on any topic on environmental microbiology.


M. T. Madigan, J. M. Martinko, and J. Parker, Brock Biology of Microorganisms, 13th Ed., Prentice-Hall ISBN 978-0321649638

There is an old edition of this book (12th Ed., ISBN  0-132-32460-1). This is also acceptable.

Additional Texts: You may also wish to purchase a good reference book in environmental microbiology.

D. A. Vaccari, P. F. Strom, and J. E. Alleman. Environmental Biology for Engineers and Scientists, First Ed., Wiley ISBN 0-471-72239-1

Maier, R., Pepper, R. L., and C. P. Gerba, Environmental Microbiology, Academic Press

  • In addition to the text, several handouts and papers will be used as reading assignments or study material. They will be provided during the semester or will be available in Electronic reserves in the Library ( ) or as downloadable pdf files at the course website.

Course Outline

Introduction to Microbiology

  • Cell structure
  • Nomenclature, taxonomy and phylogeny
  • Key biochemical macromolecules

•   Bacteria and Archaea

  • Chemical composition
  • Cell components
  • Reproduction and genetic recombination
  • Survey of key organisms

•   Fundamentals of Metabolism

  • Free energy calculations
  • Enzymes, redox reactions, energy conservation and storage, electron transfer

•   Catabolism of Carbohydrates

  • Glycolysis
  • TCA Cycle

•   Aerobic respiration, oxidative phosphorylation, ATP and energy storage

  • Anaerobic respiration
  • Fermentations

•   Catabolism of other organics

  • Lipids
  • Proteins
  • Hydrocarbons

•   Microbial Growth

•   Microbial Ecology

  • Methods in microbial ecology
  • Enrichment and isolation
  • Microscopy
  • Molecular methods

•   Public Health Microbiology

•   Eukarya

  • Cell components
  • Algae, fungi, protozoa
  • Waterborne diseases

•   Viruses

  • Overview
  • Bacteriophages


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