University of Toronto, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering

Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry

E. A. Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards

B.A.Sc., M.A.Sc., Ph.D., P.Eng.

Room: WB420D
Tel.: 416-946-3506
Websites:; and


Killam Research Fellowship, 2008-2010
NSERC Women’s Faculty Award, 1995-97


Professional Engineers of Ontario
Association of Environmental Engineering Professors (AEEP)
American Society for Microbiology
American Chemical Society

Research Interests

Biodegradation, Biotransformation and Bioremediation of Organic Pollutants
My research group focuses on developing an understanding of how biological processes affect the fate of pollutants in the environment. We apply a wide variety of techniques from analytical chemistry, molecular biology and microbiology in conjunction with mass and energy balance approaches to unravel and model complex microbial processes.

A fundamental understanding of biological degradative processes occurring in groundwater is essential to the proper application of bioremediation or bioaugmentation. My lab group has focused on biological transformation processes affecting two classes of chemicals of concern in the environment, namely monoaromatic hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents.

Anaerobic Degradation of Monoaromatic Hydrocarbons
Monoaromatic hydrocarbons (such as benzene, toluene and xylene) are prevalent ground water contaminants as they are found in most petroleum products. These compounds can be biodegraded under a variety of different conditions both aerobically and anaerobically. Anaerobic processes have significant advantages over aerobic processes for in situ Bioremediation (i.e., bioremediation in-place in the subsurface) because anaerobic processes are not limited by the availability of oxygen. My research has explored the biological processes that affect the fate of monoaromatic hydrocarbons in anaerobic environments, and their potential role in site remediation.

Reductive Dechlorination of Chlorinated Solvents
Chlorinated solvents are also widespread ground water contaminants. These solvents are used extensively as degreasing agents and for dry-cleaning. In the presence of oxygen, these compounds are quite stable. However under reduced conditions, they are susceptible to sequential dechlorination ultimately yielding non-chlorinated (non-toxic) products. Microorganisms naturally present in the environment are responsible for the reductive dechlorination of many dechlorinated solvents, and there is a lot of interest in taking advantage of these fascinating microbes for remediation of contaminated sites using bioaugmentation.
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