Anoxic microbial transformation

Research group Dr. Chang Ding

Research focus

Our research focuses on anoxic microbial transformations in technical systems, targeting a combination of process engineering and molecular approaches. Studied technical systems include classic wastewater treatment plants and newly designed systems of wastewater technology and bioreactors. The goal is to provide solutions to efficient and effective removal of contaminants in such systems. Our research is divided into projects that aim at the energy-efficient removal of fixed nitrogen from wastewater and those that aim to remove pollutants from surface water, groundwater or wastewater.

Specifically, we work on the oxygen-free oxidation of ammonium from wastewater on technology readiness level (TRL) 2-5. Such processes are carried out by anammox bacteria as well as other novel bacteria in the nitrogen cycle. By looking into the molecular background of such processes, we strive to make the nitrogen removal process more stable, faster and more controllable. Apart from the centralized wastewater treatment, anoxic transformation of contaminants in natural and near-natural systems (e.g. hyporheic zone in receiving waters, bank filtration of surface water) is also examined. The basic principles of microbial transformation in anoxic redox gradients are often similar in technical and near-natural systems.

Another emerging issue of modern wastewater treatment is the occurrence of persistent and mobile organic compounds (PMOCs) that readily escape the common wastewater treatment process and enter the environment. To understand the fate of such compounds, we develop proteomics-based approaches to rapidly identify key organisms and unveil interactions between proteins and compounds of interests. Current compounds of interests include the widely used antibiotic sulfamethoxazole and the artifical sweetener acesulfame. We also apply digitally controlled reactors to cultivate microorganisms that specifically remove such contaminants. Several highly customized continuous reactors cultivating various anaerobic bacteria are in operation and under continuous improvement since 2016.

Anammox reactor
Digitally controlled continuous reactor cultivating "Canditatus Kuenenia stuttgartiensis" strain CSTR1

Working group members


     Dr. Chang Ding

     Prof. Lorenz Adrian

Doctoral student

     Yu Liu

     Caglar Akay

     Sarya Derado

     Jimmy Köpke

Master student

     Wasim Smirat

     Jerusalamary James

     Youssef Elsayed

     Nishat Tasnim

Bachelor student

     Yasmeen Hammoudeh


     Benjamin Scheer

Former group members

Postdoctoral researchers

     Meng Li (2020.09-2022.08, visiting scholar)

     Clara Reino (2019.12-2021.12, Marie Curie Fellowship)

Doctoral researchers

     Irantzu Vergara (2024.01-2024.04, visiting student from University of the Basque Country, Spain)

     Christian White (2023.06-2023.09, visiting student from UC Berkeley, USA)

     Emea Okorafor Ude (2018.10-2023.09, defense date: 2023.09.26)

Master students (students with Bachelor degree)

     Lasse Kürschner (2023.04-2024.06, Master thesis)

     Theda von Postel (2023.06-2024.02, Master thesis)

     Yadav Rimjhim (2022.03-2022.12, 2023.05-2023.10, Internship & Bachelor thesis, defense date: 2024.02.15)

     Jean-Patrick William Hamlet (2023.02-2023.07, Master thesis)

     Harsh Vinay Singh (2023.03-2023.05, Internship)

     Natalia Stefania Bayona Sarmiento (2022.11-2023.06, Master thesis)

     Amrutha Edassery (2022.10-2022.12, internship)

     Muhammad Jan Brohi (2022.10-2022.12, internship)

     Yidong Li (2022.06-2022.11, internship)

     Vinayak Patil (2022.05-2022.07, internship)

     Tanyaben Manishbhai Patel (2022.05-2022.07, internship)

     Pranathi Sure (2022.03-2023.02, Master thesis, defense date: 2023.12.04)

     Patricia Mohedano Caballero (2021.11-2022.01, Erasmus+)

     Susiddharthak Chakraborty (2020.10-2021.09, Master thesis)

Bachelor students

     Konstantin Max (2023.02-2023.06, Bachelor thesis)

     Khoa Vu (2021.04-2022.01, 2023.02-2023.06, Internship & Bachelor thesis, defense date: 2023.11.08)

     Brianna Wensor (2020.11-2021.10, Bachelor thesis)

Contact / Address

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
Department Molecular Environmental Biotechnology
Permoserstraße 15 | 04318 Leipzig | Germany