"Environment" research area

Program Staff

Daniel Jones, Ph.D.

Research Associate and Industry Liaison
The BioTechnology Institute, Suite 240, 1479 Gortner Avenue Suite 140 St. Paul, MN 55108-6106

Dan is an Industry Liaison for the MnDRIVE initiative Advancing Industry, Conserving our Environment. He is also a research associate in the BioTechnology Institute. He has a Ph.D. in Geosciences and Biogeochemistry from Penn State, and was a postdoctoral fellow in the UMN Department of Earth Sciences. Dan has diverse research interests in the field of geomicrobiology, and he has studied microbial processes in cave systems, marine sediments, and acidic mine drainages. He is currently studying microbial sulfur cycling in mining-impacted environments in Minnesota, and is developing bioremediation strategies for the mitigation of mine discharge.

Michael Winikoff

Communications Director
The BioTechnology Institute, Suite 240, 1479 Gortner Avenue Suite 140 St. Paul, MN 55108-6106
(612) 414-0051

Michael Winikoff is the Communications Director for the MnDRIVE initiative Advancing Industry, Conserving our Environment and the BioTechnology Institute, where he oversees print and digital media.


Michel J. Sadowsky, Ph.D.

Michael J. Sadowsky
MnDRIVE Co-Director
The BioTechnology Institute, Suite 240, 1479 Gortner Avenue Suite 140 St. Paul, MN 55108-6106
(612) 624-2706

Distinguished McKnight Professor Michael Sadowsky, a fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Microbiology, is internationally known and respected for his research work in the area of environmental microbiology. Dr. Sadowsky serves as Director of the University's BioTechnology Institute. He has published more than 100 original articles, and his work is widely cited by researchers in several scientific disciplines.

Paige Novak, Ph.D.

Paige Novak
MnDRIVE Co-Director
The BioTechnology Institute, Suite 240, 1479 Gortner Avenue Suite 140 St. Paul, MN 55108-6106
(612) 626-9846

Dr. Novak is a professor of Civil Engineering and serves on the graduate faculty in the department of Water Resources Science. Her research focuses on the biological transformation of hazardous substances in sediment, groundwater, and wastewater. She is particularly interested in how external environmental factors influence the biodegradation of these substances. Dr. Novak works both in the laboratory and in the field, trying to understand the interactions between microorganisms and environmental conditions. Her field work has focused on implementing remediation technologies that alter environmental conditions and as a result, stimulate beneficial biological activity.


Mikael Elias Ph.D.

Mikael Elias is interested in evolution and molecular interactions – how biomolecules fulfill their roles and how they evolve towards new functions. In particular, Elias studies microbial enzymes and systems that have the potential to address industrial needs or that may be useful for bio-remediation. The Lab is interested in the cellular phosphate uptake mechanism. Elias also focuses on a bacterial communication system dubbed quorum sensing, mediated by signaling molecules such as acyl homoserine lactones. 

Cara Santelli Ph.D.

Santelli’s research examines the impact of microbial activity on geological processes: mineral formation and alteration, metal redox transformations, weathering processes, environmental geochemistry, and remediation of contaminated environments. 

Sebastian Behrens Ph.D.

Research interests include microbial processes for bioremediation of (in)organic environmental contaminants (mining wastes, agriculture runoff) and the recovery of valuable resources from municipal/industrial wastes. His area of research is situated at the interface of Molecular Microbial Ecology, Geomicrobiology, and Environmental Biotechnology. In the lab we use classical microbiology and state-of-the-art molecular tools to identify and quantify the ‘lifestyle’ of environmental microorganisms. Through comprehensive ecosystem-level analyses of geochemical parameters, microbial community composition, and in situ functions at various spatial and temporal scales we obtain insights into key microbial-mediated transformation processes in various environments and engineered bioprocess systems.

Satoshi Ishii Ph.D.

Research focused on environmental microbiology and biotechnology, with specific research interests in bioremediation of inorganic nutrients, removal and recovery of heavy metals, and assessing the risks of environmental pathogens.