Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Docente: Elena Biagi
  • Credits: 6
  • SSD: ICAR/03
  • Language: Italian
  • Moduli: Elena Biagi (Modulo 1) Giulio Zanaroli (Modulo 2)
  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures (Modulo 1) Traditional lectures (Modulo 2)
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: First cycle degree programme (L) in Environmental Engineering (cod. 9198)

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and skills to be achieved: at the end of the course the student will know the role of the microbial population in the different natural habitats (with particular reference to the contaminated ones) and the microbiological and biochemical aspects relevant for biotechnological processes of environmental interest for the bioremediation of contaminated waters, sediments and soils. The student will know the theory of the main techniques for chemical monitoring in contaminated environmental matrices of different physical states and the main metabolic processes associated with the biodegradation of organic pollutants.

Course contents

Module 1

Microbial transformation of biogenic chemical compounds present in the environment: anabolic and catabolic pathways, free energy and cellular bioenergetics.

Metabolism of biogenic organic material in different habitats and aerobic/anaerobic purification processes. Aerobic metabolism: glycolytic pathways, Krebs cycle and oxidative phosphorylation. Anaerobic metabolism: examples of anaerobic respiration and fermentation. Metabolism of biogenic inorganic compounds in natural habitats and aerobic and anaerobic processes of environmental interest. Autotrophic fixation of CO2.

Microbial ecology: microorganisms as members of complex communities (microbiomes), features of the microbial communities in different environments (water, soil, extreme environments), molecular characterization of microbial ecosystems.

Origin and biological fate of the main xenobiotic organic and inorganic compounds in soils, sediments and contaminated waters. Microorganisms most involved in their degradation and biological-molecular mechanisms underlying their evolution in contaminated environments.

Mechanisms of microbial degradation of aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons, chlorinated and not, in contaminated aerobic and anaerobic environments. Selection and characterization of specialized microorganisms.

Biotechnologies for the decontamination of contaminated sites: features and specific aspects related to ex-situ and in situ bioremediation technologies of soils contaminated by organic pollutants. Outline of the potential of myco- and phyto-remediation techniques in this area. Potential of biotechnologies in the remediation of contaminated sediments.

Module 2

Measurements of pollution by chemicals and physical agents: general criteria.

Chemical analysis: elementary and structural, qualitative and quantitative.

Introduction to methods of gravimetric and volumetric chemical analysis: principles, applications and examples.

Basics of methods of instrumental analysis: characteristics, advantages and limits.

Stages of the analytical process (formulation of the question, selection of analytical procedures, sampling, sample preparation, analysis, reporting and interpretation). Calibration methods (external standard, internal standard, standard addition). Uncertainty measures, quality assurance and control charts.

Basics of spectroscopic and electrochemical methods of analysis. Introduction to mass spectrometry.

Chromatographic principles and methods. High performance gas chromatography and liquid chromatography: main components of the chromatographic system, elution process and its optimization, main detectors. Examples of standardized methods for the analysis of organic pollutants in environmental matrices (water and soil).

Outline of the main phases of characterization of a contaminated site.


Madigan MT, Bender KS, Stahl DA, Sattley WM. Brock - Biologia dei microrganismi. Microbiologia generale, ambientale e industriale. Pearson.

Teaching methods

Classroom lessons. There will also be some visits to the DICAM Industrial and Environmental Biotechnology laboratory during which analytical tools and pollutant biodegradation tests will be viewed and illustrated.

Assessment methods

Oral exam. The degree of knowledge acquired by the student on the topics covered in class is assessed, together with the ability to present them clearly and with language properties and to discuss them critically

Teaching tools

Slides will be available.

Office hours

See the website of Elena Biagi

See the website of Giulio Zanaroli


Good health and well-being Quality education Oceans Life on land

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.