Environmental engineers critical to fight against superbugs

Photo of Navab and Schutzius in the lab.
Tala Navab-Daneshmand (right) works with graduate student Genevieve Schutzius in the lab.

Environmental engineers have a unique and important role to play in combating the rise of antibiotic resistance, according to a recent high-impact paper published in the journal Environmental Engineering Science.

The paper, representing a consensus of more than 80 environmental engineering and science professors, summarizes the key knowledge gaps and research needed to understand and address environmental sources and pathways of antibiotic resistance, in order to help preserve the effectiveness of antibiotic drugs in treating life-threatening infections.

Tala Navab-Daneshmand, assistant professor of environmental engineering at Oregon State University, is a contributing author of the paper. Her own work looks at the inactivation, growth, and persistence of enteric pathogens from wastewater streams in the environment. Wastewater treatment plants are identified in the paper as one of the critical “environmental hot spots” for priority research.

“One area that remains unknown is the impact of environmental stressors on the fate of enteric antibiotic resistant bacteria in different wastewater treatment systems,” Navab said. “Currently, we are working on a statewide project to identify the impact of seasonal and geographical variations on antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant genes in wastewater treatment facilities across Oregon. Furthermore, we aim to determine the environmental hotspots for the emergence of antibiotic resistance in soils and food crops after wastewater irrigation and biosolids amendment.”

The outcomes of the study are expected to have a positive impact, Navab says, as they will constitute an important early step toward the development of evidence-based policy strategies to decrease the emergence and spread of illness, disability, and death attributable to enteric antibiotic-resistant infections.

The paper, “An Environmental Science and Engineering Framework for Combating Antimicrobial Resistance,” was identified as a “high-impact article” by the publishers. It is accessible online at doi.org/10.1089/ees.2017.0520.

Josefine Fleetwood: Putting CBEE students to work

Josefine Fleetwood
Josefine Fleetwood wants to connect CBEE students with top-tier employers to find meaningful internship experiences — and rewarding jobs after graduation.

Josefine Fleetwood joined the School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering this fall as CBEE’s new industry relations coordinator. In that role, her responsibilities cover a wide range of interactions with representatives from companies around the country. But foremost on her agenda is helping to connect students with meaningful internship experiences while they’re here — and rewarding jobs after they graduate.

“That’s what this is all about,” Fleetwood said. “Even with the best education in the world, career success depends on the connections you make and the opportunities you perceive. I want all of our students to be aware of the diversity of great opportunities available to them, and I want to make sure they’re prepared to pursue them with confidence.”

Part of Fleetwood’s plan involves bringing more employers to campus to meet with interested students. This year’s CBEE Fall Career Reception, taking place on Tuesday, Oct. 16 (on the eve of Oregon State University’s 2018 Fall Career Expo), will feature representatives from nine different companies. Students will have the opportunity to attend up to three different “Career Insights” sessions and to interact one-on-one with employer representatives at a networking reception.

An Oregon native, Fleetwood grew up in the Beaverton area and graduated from Portland State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in speech communication. She relocated to North Albany in 1998. In her career, she has coordinated programs and worked with students in K-12 schools, community colleges, and universities on their postsecondary educational and career goals.

Most recently, Fleetwood was the workforce development director for the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce. There, she launched Pipeline To Jobs, an industry-driven K-12 workforce program serving students in the Linn-Benton schools. That award-winning program was recognized by Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office and has received recognition in Oregon and nationwide.

Fleetwood offers individual career counseling appointments by email, and she welcomes CBEE students to drop by her office in 101 Gleeson Hall to introduce themselves. For extra inspiration, Fleetwood offers students a favorite quote, from entrepreneur and philanthropist Richard Branson:

“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”