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Mary Jo Kirisits


CWGS Affiliate FacultyPh. D.,

Associate Professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering

Contact

Interests


biological treatment processes, biofilms, environmental microbiology, and molecular biology

Biography



Interests
Dr. Kirisits's teaching interests include biological treatment processes, biofilms, environmental microbiology, and molecular biology. Her research emphasizes the importance of applying the tools of molecular biology and microbiology to better understand and optimize the performance of biological treatment processes and to prevent their catastrophic failure. Currently, she has seven projects in her laboratory:

1. Microbial arsenic oxidation in drinking water
2. Microbial perchlorate and bromate reduction in drinking water
3. Hydrocarbon biodegradation in freshwater sediments of Onondaga Lake
4. Sulfur oxidation in biofilters: biomarker development
5. Development of intra-watershed model for the transport of bacteria in surface water runoff
6. Assessment of phenotypic variation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa biofilms
7 . Investigation of microbial community in pediatric ear infections

 

Education
B.S., State University of New York at Buffalo, Civil Engineering, 1995
M.S., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Environmental Engineering, 1997
Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Environmental Engineering, 2000

Representative Publications
De Long, S. K., K. A. Kinney, and M. J. Kirisits. (2008) “Prokaryotic Suppression Subtractive Hybridization PCR cDNA Subtraction, a Targeted Method to Identify Differentially Expressed Genes.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology 74:1:225

Kirisits, M. J., J. J. Margolis, B. L. Purevdorj-Gage, B. Vaughan, D. L. Chopp, P. Stoodley, and M. R. Parsek. (2007) “Influence of the Hydrodynamic Environment on Quorum Sensing in Pseudomonas aeruginosa Biofilms.” Journal of Bacteriology 189:22:8357.

Marsolek, M. D., M. J. Kirisits, and B. E. Rittmann. (2007) “Biodegradation of 2,4,5-trichlorophenol by Aerobic Microbial Communities: Biorecalcitrance, Inhibition, and Adaptation.” Biodegradation 18:3:351.

Kirisits, M. J., L. Prost, M. Starkey, and M. R. Parsek. (2005) “Characterization of Colony Morphology Variants from Pseudomonas aeruginosa Biofilms.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology 71:8:4809.

Kirisits, M. J., and M. R. Parsek. (2006) “Does Pseudomonas aeruginosa Use Intercellular Signalling to Build Biofilm Communities?” Cellular Microbiology 8:12:1841.

Courses


T C 358 • Sci & Pol Antibiotic Resist

42840 • Fall 2021
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM ECJ 1.304

Description

This course will explore both the science and policy related to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance can be defined as the ability of bacteria to grow in the presence of an antibiotic, and it is estimated to cost U.S. households over $35 billion dollars each year.  Infections with antibiotic-resistant organisms can significantly increase both the length of hospital stays (by 5-13 d) and mortality rates (causing >20,000 deaths/y in the U.S.), thereby attaching a tremendous societal cost to antibiotic resistance. At the same time that antibiotic resistance is increasing, the development of new antibiotics is declining, which limits treatment options for bacterial infections.

 

The course will include microbiological topics (e.g., types of microorganisms, role of antibiotics and mechanisms of action, history of development of antibiotic resistance, and adaptive and mutative antibiotic resistance) and policy topics (e.g., stakeholders in the antibiotic resistance space, controlling unnecessary antibiotic usage, antibiotic use in industry, approaches for societal engagement utilizing the one-health approach of the World Health Organization [WHO], and the global policy dialogue on controlling the spread of antibiotic resistance).  Through this course, each student will be able to (i) understand basic scientific concepts related to antibiotic resistance, (ii) understand the principles of the new antibiotic design paradigm, (iii) identify the policy stakeholders and current challenges in controlling the spread of antibiotic resistance, and (iv) demonstrate critical thinking abilities by synthesizing scientific and policy information.  These outcomes will be achieved by traditional lectures, interactive discussions (some student-led), a stakeholder panel discussion (including experts from UT-Austin’s Dell Medical School, the Schools of Pharmacy, Public Health, and Public Policy, and the Cockrell School of Engineering), hands-on laboratory sessions (two-week lab module) and group laboratory report, one individual research paper, and a podcast group project. (5-min podcast addressing a challenge in the antibiotic resistance space).

 

Texts/Readings

  1. Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues by Martin J. Blaser (2014).
  2. Brock Biology of Microorganisms by Michael T. Madigan; John M. Martinko; Kelly S. Bender; Daniel H. Buckley; David A. Stahl.15th Selected sections and chapters only.
  3. Selected readings from the peer-reviewed and popular literature (available through UT Library).

 

Course Requirements 

 

Assignment

Description

% of grade

Attendance/participation

Attendance and meaningful participation requires that a student comes to class well-prepared, focused on the topic, provides substantive input into the discussion, and works on problems/questions given in class.

20

Presentation

A group of students (2-3) will work together to devise an outline of main points and topics of discussion based on assigned readings, and they will lead the discussion in class.

10

Laboratory - written report

A group of students (2-3) will work together to write a report of the class’s laboratory findings in a scientific journal format.

20

Individual research paper

A group of students (2-3) will identify a challenge in the antibiotic resistance space, consulting the WHO’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week’s website for topic ideas.  Then, each individual will write a 5000-word paper (plus figures and tables) on that topic. The professor will provide intermediate feedback on each paper.

25

Podcast group project

Each group of students who wrote a paper on the same topic will combine to create a 5-min podcast on that topic, which will be professionally edited by the Cockrell School of Engineering communications team and publically disseminated.

25

 

           

Biography:  Professor Kirisits is an associate professor and the Fluor Centennial Teaching Fellow in the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering program at The University of Texas at Austin (UT).  She completed her BS degree in Civil Engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo and her MS and PhD degrees in Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  After concluding a postdoctoral appointment at Northwestern University, she joined the faculty at UT.  Her research interests include the impact of nanomaterials on the development of antimicrobial resistance in microorganisms, drinking-water biofiltration, and opportunistic human pathogens in drinking water.  She is a National Science Foundation CAREER-awardee and was recently awarded the Emerald Erlenmeyer by the American Water Works Association.  She enjoys learning how to garden in the blistering Texas sun, being a Girl Scout leader, and volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House.

 

T C 358 • Sci & Pol Antibiotic Resist

41170 • Fall 2020
Meets TTH 8:00AM-9:30AM SZB 330
Hybrid/Blended

Description:

This course will explore both the science and policy related to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance can be defined as the ability of bacteria to grow in the presence of an antibiotic, and it is estimated to cost U.S. households over $35 billion dollars each year.  Infections with antibiotic-resistant organisms can significantly increase both the length of hospital stays (by 5-13 d) and mortality rates (causing >20,000 deaths/y in the U.S.), thereby attaching a tremendous societal cost to antibiotic resistance. At the same time that antibiotic resistance is increasing, the development of new antibiotics is declining, which limits treatment options for bacterial infections.

The course will include microbiological topics (e.g., types of microorganisms, role of antibiotics and mechanisms of action, history of development of antibiotic resistance, and adaptive and mutative antibiotic resistance) and policy topics (e.g., stakeholders in the antibiotic resistance space, controlling unnecessary antibiotic usage, antibiotic use in industry, approaches for societal engagement utilizing the one-health approach of the World Health Organization [WHO], and the global policy dialogue on controlling the spread of antibiotic resistance).  Through this course, each student will be able to (i) understand basic scientific concepts related to antibiotic resistance, (ii) understand the principles of the new antibiotic design paradigm, (iii) identify the policy stakeholders and current challenges in controlling the spread of antibiotic resistance, and (iv) demonstrate critical thinking abilities by synthesizing scientific and policy information.  These outcomes will be achieved by traditional lectures, interactive discussions (some student-led), a stakeholder panel discussion (including experts from UT-Austin’s Dell Medical School, the Schools of Pharmacy, Public Health, and Public Policy, and the Cockrell School of Engineering), hands-on laboratory sessions (two-week lab module) and group laboratory report, one individual research paper, and a podcast group project. (5-min podcast addressing a challenge in the antibiotic resistance space).

Texts/Readings

  1. Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues by Martin J. Blaser (2014).
  2. Brock Biology of Microorganisms by Michael T. Madigan; John M. Martinko; Kelly S. Bender; Daniel H. Buckley; David A. Stahl.15th Selected sections and chapters only.
  3. Selected readings from the peer-reviewed and popular literature (available through UT Library).

 

Course Requirements  

 

Assignment

Description

% of grade

Attendance/participation

Attendance and meaningful participation requires that a student comes to class well-prepared, focused on the topic, provides substantive input into the discussion, and works on problems/questions given in class.

20

Presentation

A group of students (2-3) will work together to devise an outline of main points and topics of discussion based on assigned readings, and they will lead the discussion in class.

10

Laboratory - written report

A group of students (2-3) will work together to write a report of the class’s laboratory findings in a scientific journal format.

20

Individual research paper

A group of students (2-3) will identify a challenge in the antibiotic resistance space, consulting the WHO’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week’s website for topic ideas.  Then, each individual will write a 5000-word paper (plus figures and tables) on that topic. The professor will provide intermediate feedback on each paper.

25

Podcast group project

Each group of students who wrote a paper on the same topic will combine to create a 5-min podcast on that topic, which will be professionally edited by the Cockrell School of Engineering communications team and publically disseminated.

25

 

Biography: 

Professor Kirisits is an associate professor and the Fluor Centennial Teaching Fellow in the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering program at The University of Texas at Austin (UT).  She completed her BS degree in Civil Engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo and her MS and PhD degrees in Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  After concluding a postdoctoral appointment at Northwestern University, she joined the faculty at UT.  Her research interests include the impact of nanomaterials on the development of antimicrobial resistance in microorganisms, drinking-water biofiltration, and opportunistic human pathogens in drinking water.  She is a National Science Foundation CAREER-awardee and was recently awarded the Emerald Erlenmeyer by the American Water Works Association.  She enjoys learning how to garden in the blistering Texas sun, being a Girl Scout leader, and volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House.

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