Faculty Profile

Wen-Tso Liu

Civil and Environmental Engineering
Wen-Tso Liu
Wen-Tso Liu
Professor
3207 Newmark Civil Engineering Bldg
205 N. Mathews
Urbana Illinois 61801
(217) 333-8442

Administrative Titles

  • Arthur C. Nauman Endowed Professor
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering Excellence Faculty Scholar

Primary Research Area

  • Societal Risk Management

Education

  • B.S. Civil Engineering, National Taipei University of Technology, Taiwan, 1984
  • M.Sc. Environmental Science, Rutgers ￿ the State University of New Jersey, 1989
  • M.Eng. Environmental Engineering, University of California at Berkeley, 1992
  • Ph.D. Urban Engineering, University of Tokyo, Japan, 1995

Biography

Dr. Wen-Tso Liu holds a B.S. (National Taipei University of Technology, Taiwan) in Civil Engineering, an MS (Rutgers University) in Environmental Science, an MEng (University of California at Berkeley) in Environmental Engineering, and Ph.D. (University of Tokyo, 1995) in Urban Engineering. He has been a professor at the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois since 2008.  Prior to 2008, Dr. Liu served as a professor at National Central University, Taiwan (1998-01) and at National University of Singapore (2001-08).  He also worked as a post-doctoral scientist at Michigan State University (1995-97) and Northwestern University (1997-98).

Dr. Liu has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in water quality control engineering, biological principles in environmental engineering, environmental microbiology, wastewater biotechnology, and current topics in environmental biotechnology.

Dr. Liu’s recognitions include CEE Excellence Faculty Scholar at UIUC, the distinguished alumni award and honorary international professorship of National Taipei University of Technology (2012), the visiting professorship of Shanghai Jiao-Tung University (2006-2009), the Asian Young Biotechnologist Prize (2005), and National Science Council research award, Taiwan (2000). He is a member of the American Society of Microbiology, International Society on Microbial Ecology, International Water Association, and American Water Work Association.  He serves a member of the editorial board for several leading journals in Environmental Microbiology such as Microbial Ecology and the ISME journal by the publisher of Nature. He has contributed as a reviewer for more than 15 leading journals.

Academic Positions

  • Assistant Professor, National Central University, 1998-2001
  • Assistant Professor, National University of Singapore, 2003-2004
  • Associate faculty member, NUS Graduate School (NGS) for Integrative Sciene and Engineering 2003-2008 (0%)
  • Associate Professor, National University of Singapore, 2004-2008
  • Joint Appointed Faculty, Inst of Microelectronics, Singapore, 2005-2006(25%), 2006-2007 (50%)
  • Guest Professor, Shanghai Jiao-Tong Univ, China 2006-2009 (0%)
  • Visiting Associate Professor, National University of Singapore, 2008-2011 (0%)
  • Faculty member, Biocomplexity theme group, Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2008-present (0%)
  • Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2008-2011
  • Distinguished Visiting Professor, National Taipei University of Technology, Taiwan 2012-2013 (0%)
  • Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2011-present

For more information

Major Consulting Activities

  • Scientific Adviser, AyoxxA Living Health Inc. Singapore, 2009-present

Research Statement

Dr. Liu￿s research focuses on "water microbiome" that describes the ecological roles of microbes in different water systems including watershed, drinking water systems, and wastewater treatment and reclamation systems. In studying water microbiome, the greatest scientific challenges are to fully understand the role of microbes and correlate the findings with comprehensive metadata (i.e., physical, chemical, and geological data) in individual water systems. In specific, it is critical to know who they are (microbial diversity), what and how they perform different metabolic functions (e.g. C and N cycling), and whether the microbial diversity and function can be influenced or controlled in water systems. The knowledge can be further used to improve water cycling within the natural and engineered systems, and to protect the public health.

Dr. Liu has conducted various research topics in the past two decades, including enhanced biological phosphorus removal processes, development of molecular tools such as terminal Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (t-RFLP), membrane bioreactors and membrane biofouling, biosensors, microbial ecology of drinking water distribution systems, nexus of syntrophs and methanogens in anaerobic digesters (AD), and water and bioenergy recovery. Among all ongoing projects, one is Digester Microbiome Project (DMP) funded by DoE. DMP explores the microbial diversity and function in anaerobic digesters (AD) using the next-generation DNA sequencing technologies with an ultimate engineering goal to maximize biogas (CH4) production in AD.

Research Interests

  • MICROBIAL SYSTEMATICS AND GENOMICS: i) To characterize and classify novel bacterial isolates from wastewater treatment processes; ii) To analyze phylogenetic placement of microorganisms based on rRNA sequences and metagenomics approaches; iii) Environmental metagenomics for TA-degrading methanogenic consortia in anaerobic bioreactors
  • MOLECULAR METHODS AND NANO-BIOTECHNOLOGY FOR MICROBIAL MONITORING: i) To leverage on available molecular methods like real-time PCR and fingerprinting methods (e.g., terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism) for monitoring microbial population dynamics or interested microbial populations; ii) To develop state-of-the-art techniques like DNA microchip and biological lab-on-a-chip for monitoring biological warfare agents, pathogenic organisms and ecologically important microorganisms; iii) To develop novel real-time image analysis software for the control of DNA microchip reader and image analysis.
  • WATER MICROBIOLOGY; i) To address biofouling problems associated with membrane-based water separation processes through the use of novel antimicrobial agents; ii) To identify/monitor microbial populations responsible for biofouling problems in membran-based water separation processes; iii) To understand the mechanisms of biofilm formation in membrane-based water separation processes at molecular signaling levels; iv) To understand the microbial ecology of drinking water distribution system biofilms; v) To detect waterborne pathogens in various water sources
  • WASTEWATER MICROBIOLOGY/MICROBIAL ECOLOGY: i)To characterize microbial diversity (species richness, evenness and composition) in various ecosystems, and to correlate the microbial diversity with community functions (chemical degradation, bio￿polymer production, and nutrients removal); ii) To optimize the enhanced biological phosphorus removal processes through better understandings of microbiology and biochemistry; iii) To characterize microbial communities in upper-flow anaerobic sludge blanket reactors treating industrial wastewater: iv) To design/optimize membrane bioreactors for wastewater treatments and nutrient removal; v) To design/optimize microbial fuel cell. Water Microbiology

Books Edited or Co-Edited (Original Editions)

  • Liu, W.T and J. Jansson, ￿Environmental Molecular Microbiology￿, Caister Academic Press, 2010.

Chapters in Books

  • Kagia, K. and W.-T. Liu. 2014. The Family Dermatophilaceae. In S. Falkow, E. Rosenberg, K-H Schleifer, and E. Stackebrandt. The Prokaryotes: Actinobacteria. pp. 317-325 Springer.
  • Cheng, SS, TM Liang, R Anatrya. WT Liu. Development and Application of Anaerobic Technology for the Treatment of Chemical Effluents in Taiwan. In HHP Fang (Ed) Anaerobic Biotechnology: Environmental Protection and Resource Recovery. World Scientific Publishing Co., 2015.
  • Narihiro, T, MK Nobu, R Mei, WT Liu. Microbial community involved in anaerobic purified terephthalic acid treatment process. In HHP Fang (Ed) Anaerobic Biotechnology: Environmental Protection and Resource Recovery. World Scientific Publishing Co., 2015.
  • Liu, W-T. 2010. Terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP). In R. Seviour and P. H. Nielsen (Eds.). Microbial Ecology of Activated Sludge. IWA Publishing.
  • Prosser, J, J.K. Jansson, and W.-T. Liu. 2010. Nucleic-acid-based characterization of community structure and function. In W.-T. Liu and J.K. Jansson (Eds.). Environmental Molecular Microbiology, Caister Academic Press.
  • Liu, W.-T. and D. A. Stahl. 2006. Molecular approaches for the measurement of density, diversity, and phylogeny. In Hurst, C. J., Knudsen, G. R., McInerney, M. J., Stetzenbach, L. D., and Walter, M. V. (3rd Eds.) Manual of Environmental Microbiology, ASM press, Washington, D.C.
  • Liu, W.-T. and D. A. Stahl. 2001. Molecular approaches for the measurement of density, diversity, and phylogeny. In Hurst, C. J., Knudsen, G. R., McInerney, M. J., Stetzenbach, L. D., and Walter, M. V. (Eds.) Manual of Environmental Microbiology, 114-134. ASM press, Washington, D.C.
  • Liu, W.T., J.H. Wu, O.C. Chan, S.S. Cheng, I.C. Tseng, and H. H. P. Fang. 2001. Comparison of microbial communities in anaerobic granulated sludge reactors treating benzoate, methyl benzoate and terephthalate. pp. 79￿88. In Matsuo, T, Hanaki H, Takizawa, S., and Satoh, H. (Eds) Advances in Water and Wastewater Treatment Technology, Elsevier, Tokyo.
  • Ouyang, C.F., Y.J. Chou, T.Y. Pai, H.Y. Chang and W.T. Liu. 2001. Optimization of enhanced biological wastewater treatment processes using a step-feed approach. pp. 207-218. In Matsuo, T, Hanaki H, Takizawa, S., and Satoh, H. (Eds) Advances in Water and Wastewater Treatment Technology, Elsevier, Tokyo.
  • You, S.J., W.-T. Liu, M. Onuki, T. Mino, H. Satoh, T. Matuso and C.F. Ouyang. 2001. Identification on predominant microbial populations in a non-phosphate removal anaerobic aerobic bioreactor fed with fermented products. pp. 295-304. In Matsuo, T, Hanaki H, Takizawa, S., and Satoh, H. (Eds) Advances in Water and Wastewater Treatment Technology, Elsevier, Tokyo.

Selected Articles in Journals

  • Lu, H, AV Ulanov, MK Nobu, and WT Liu. 2016. Global metabolomic responses of Nitrosomonas europaea 19718 to cold stress and altered ammonia feeding patterns. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 100:1843-1852.
  • Liu, YQ, X Zhang, R Zhang, WT Liu, JH Tay. 2016. Effects of hydraulic retention time on aerobic granulation and granule growth kinetics at steady state with a fast start-up strategy. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 100 (1), 469-477.
  • Lu, H, Z Xui, P. Sakaly, S. Nunes, T. Bluver, and WT Liu. 2015. Membrane biofouling in a wastewater nitrification reactor: microbial succession from autotrophic colonization to heterotrophic domination. Water Research, 88, 337-345.
  • Nobu MK, Dodsworth JA, Murugapiran SK, Rinke C, Gies EA, Webster G, Schwientek P, Kille P, Parkes RJ, Sass H, J￿sen BB, Weightman AJ, Liu WT, Hallam SJ, Tsiamis G, Woyke T, Hedlund BP. 2016. Phylogeny and physiology of candidate phylum 'Atribacteria' (OP9/JS1) inferred from cultivation-independent genomics. ISME J. 10 (2), 273-286.
  • Y Zhang, PY Hong, MW LeChevallier, WT Liu. 2015. Phenotypic and Phylogenetic Identification of Coliform Bacteria Obtained Using 12 Coliform Methods Approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Applied and environmental microbiology 81 (17), 6012-6023.
  • Tang, Y, CJ Werth, RA Sanford, R Singh, K Michelson, M Nobu, WT Liu, and AJ Valocchi. 2015. Immobilization of Selenite via Two Parallel Pathways during In-situ Bioremediation. Environ. Sci & Technol. 49 (7), 4543-4550.
  • Narihiro, T., NK Kim, R. Mei, MK Nobu, and W.-T. Liu. 2015. Microbial community analysis of anaerobic reactors treating soft drink wastewater. PLoS ONE. 10 (3), e0119131
  • Shen, Y, GL Monroy, N Derlon, D Janjaroen, C Huang, E Morgenroth, SA Boppart, NJ Ashbolt, WT Liu, TH Nguyen. 2015. Role of biofilm roughness and hydrodynamic conditions in Legionella pneumophila adhesion to and detachment from simulated drinking water biofilms. Environ Sci & Techno. 49 (7), 4274-4282.
  • Nobu, MK, T Narihiro, C Rinke, Y Kamagata, SG Tringe, T Woyke and WT Liu. 2015. Microbial dark matter ecogenomics reveals complex synergistic networks in a methanogenic bioreactor. ISME J. 9 (8), 1710-1722.

Articles in Conference Proceedings

  • Kuroda et al., Ecological Heterogeneity in an Up-flow Anaerobic Sludge Blanket Reactor Using a Single-Granule Microbial Micro-community Analysis. ASM annual meeting, New Orleans, May 2015
  • Nobu et al., Single-cell genomics and metagenomics reveal synergistic networks of microbial dark matter in a methanogenic bioreactor, 15th International Symposium on Microbial Ecology (ISME), Seoul, South Korea, 24-29 Aug 2014. (oral presentation)
  • Liu, WT, L Ye, J Amberg, D Chapman, and M Gaikowski. Microbial Source Tracking and Its Potential to Assist Edna Assay for Asian Carp Monitoring. 74th Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, Kansas City, Missouri, Jan 26-29, 2014.
  • Liu, G, FQ Ling, A Magic-Knezev, WT Liu, J Verberk. 2012. Assessment of particle associated bacteria in unchlorined drinking water from three treatment plants by cultivation independent methods. WDSA 2012: 14th Water Distribution Systems Analysis Conference. 24-27 September 2012 in Adelaide, South Australia.
  • Zhang, Y, B. Coates, MW LeChevallier, and W-T Liu. 2012. Using phenotypic and phylogenetic analyses to identify coliform bacteria obtained from 11 different EPA approved coliform methods in USA. Water Quality Technology Conference, Toronto, Canada, Nov 4-8, 2012.
  • Moor, JF and W-T Liu. 2012. Performance and microbial community structure of Midwestern groundwater pretreatment reactors. Water Quality Technology Conference, Toronto, Canada, Nov 4-8, 2012.
  • Ling, F, CH Hwang, S Liao, GL Andersen, MW LeChevallier, and W-T Liu. 2012. Microbial community dynamics of an urban distribution system under periodical phases of chloramination and chlorination. Water Quality Technology Conference, Toronto, Canada, Nov 4-8, 2012.
  • Zhang, Y., MW LeChevallier, and WT Liu. Phylogenetic Diversity of Coliform Bacteria Isolated in USA. Water Quality Technology Conference, Pheonix, AZ, Nov 13-16, 2011.
  • Ling, FQ and WT Liu. Impact of Monochloramine Disinfection on the Development of Groundwater-Fed Biofilms. Water Quality Technology Conference, Pheonix, AZ, Nov 13-16, 2011.
  • Hwang, CH, K Lautenschlager, O Koster, H Vrouwenvelder, F Hammes, and WT Liu. Microbial Community Composition and Dynamics in a Non-Chlorinated Drinking Water Treatment and Distribution System. Water Quality Technology Conference, Pheonix, AZ, Nov 13-16, 2011.

Invited Lectures

  • Institute seminar, Argonne National Lab. December 1996. Molecular and quantitative genetics workshop: USDA￿ARD Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory ADOL, East Lansing, MI, Feb. 4, 1996.
  • University seminar, Graduate Institute of Environmental Engineering, National Taiwan University, May 1997.
  • University seminar, Institute of Life Science, National Central University, Taiwan, March 1997.
  • University seminar, Department of Civil and Structure Engineering, University of Hong Kong, May 1997.
  • University seminar, Internal Seminar, Center of Microbial Ecology, Michigan State University, January 1997.
  • University seminar, Department of Environmental Engineering, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan, May 1998.
  • Institute seminar, Institute of Chemical Engineering, Industrial Technology of Research Institute, Taiwan, April 1998.
  • Institute seminar, Development Center for Biotechnology, Taiwan, May 1998.
  • Institute seminar, National Institute of Bioscience and Human Technology, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan, August 1998.
  • University seminar, Seminar, Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, University of Hong Kong, October 1998.

Journal Editorships

  • Board member of Advances in Asian Environmental Engineering, 2002 - 2008
  • Editorial Board of Applied Environmental Microbiology, 2004 - 2013
  • Associate editor of Microbes and Environments, 2003-2006, 2010 - present
  • Editorial Board of Microbial Ecology, 2006 - present
  • Editorial Board of the ISME journal, 2006 - present

Professional Societies

  • Member, International Water Association, 1987-present
  • Member, American Water Work Association, 2009-present
  • Member, American Society for Microbiology, 1995-present
  • Member, Singapore Society for Environmental Engineering, 2001-2008
  • Member, Association of Water Recycle and Reuse, Taiwan, 2001-present
  • Member, International Society for Microbial Ecology, 2004-2011
  • Member, American Environmental Engineering Professor Society, 2008-present
  • Committee member, Asia Environmental Biotechnology Society (2007 - present).
  • Secretary, IWA, Activated Sludge Population Dynamics specialist group (2005-2008).
  • Committee member, Internal Water Association (IWA), Activated Sludge Population Dynamics specialist group (2001-present)

Service on Department Committees

  • Advisory board members for annual journal published by the Institute of Environmental Engineering, National Central University, Taiwan.
  • Member, Internet committee, Faculty of Engineering, National Central University, Taiwan (1998-2001)
  • Liaison officer for Industrial attachment program of Civil Engineering department students (2001-2008)
  • Supervisors for the enhancement program of Civil Engineering department students (2001-2008)
  • Member, Department Curriculum Committee, National University of Singapore (08/2001~07/2003)
  • Faculty, Nanotechnology Initiative Committee, National University of Singapore (12/2001~05/2003).
  • Coordinator, Specialized program in Urban Environmental Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering, National University of Singapore (2002-2004)
  • Member, Department Public Relations Committee, National University of Singapore, (06/03~07/04).
  • Member, Department Graduate Research Committee, National University of Singapore (08/04~04/05)
  • Member, Department laboratory committee, National University of Singapore (01/06-08/08)

Service on Campus Committees

  • Deputy director, NUS Environmental Research Institute, National University of Singapore (2007-2008)
  • Member, the Wilfred F. and Ruth Davison Langelier Scholarship in Sanitary/Environmental Engineering Selection Committee, University of Illinois (2013 - present)
  • Member, Steering Committee, iSEE (Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment), UIUC (2014-present)

Service to Federal and State Government

  • Tech Scan committee member, Environmental Technology, A*STAR, Singapore, 2004.
  • United Statea, Department of Defense, SERDP Peer Review panel, 2006
  • Reviewer, Department of Energy, Joint Genome Institute, Community Sequencing Program proposal panel (2010-2013).
  • Member, Project Advisor Committee (PAC) for Water Research Foundation project #4448, 2012-2013
  • Member, Project Advisor Committee (PAC) for Water Research Foundation project #4520, 2013-2015.
  • Member, the Mesocosm Advisory Committee, National Great Rivers Research and Education Center, Illinois., 2015 - present
  • Project Advisory Committee member for Water Research Foundation project 4606 on ￿Research Plan for Management of Emerging Pathogens in Distribution Systems and Premise Plumbing (2015).￿
  • Project Advisory Committee member for Water Research Foundation project 4448 on ￿Optimizing Filter Influent Conditions for Improved Mn Control During Conversion to Biofiltration (2014).￿
  • Project Advisory Committee member for Water Research Foundation project 4574 on ￿Biological Oxidation Filtration for Ammonia Removal from Groundwater (2014)￿

Other Outside Service

  • REVIEWER FOR PEER-REVIEWED JOURNALS: Advances in Asian Environmental Engineering; Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology; Applied Environmental Microbiology; Biotechnology & Bioengineering; Chinese Journal of Environmental Engineering; Environmental Science & Technology; Environmental Microbiology; FEBS letter; The ISME journal; Journal of Biotechnology; Microbes and Environments; Microbial Ecology; Microbiology-UK; PLoS One; Proceeding National Academy of Science; Scientific Report; Soil Microbiology & Biochemistry; Scientific Report; Soil Science Society of America Journal; Water and Environment Research; Water Research; Water Science & Technology; World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology.
  • REVIEWER FOR GRANTING AGENCIES: Chinese Society of Environmental Engineering; National Science Council, Taiwan, ROC; Defense Science & Technology Agency (Singapore); Hong Kong Research Grant Committee;Israel Research Council; National Science Foundation, United State; Department of Defense, USA. SERDP Peer Review panel (2006); Department of Energy, USA.
  • Scientific Advisor Board member, Uppsala Microbiomics Center funded by the Swedish Research Council Formas, Sweden, Jan 2009 ￿ Dec 2010.
  • Reference letter writer for Promotion and Tenure applications of faculty at different universities in the USA and oversea.

Honors

  • Distinguished Alumnus Award, National Taipei University of Technology (October 2012)
  • Honorary International Visiting Professorship, Department of Civil Engineering, National Taipei University of Technology (May 2012-May 2013)
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering Excellence Faculty Scholar (January 2013)
  • Arthur C. Nauman Endowed Professor (August 2014)

Teaching Honors

  • Engineering Council Advising Award, College of Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2013)
  • Best undergraduate poster presentation at the ISAWWA and IWEA Water Conference (WATERCON), Springfield 2012 (2012)
  • Best paper presentation award Bioengineering Students￿ Conference (2004)
  • Institute of Engineering Singapore (IES) publication award (2002)
  • Best Master Thesis Award (2001)

Research Honors

  • Best Student Poster Award (Aug, 2014)
  • Best paper award (Diversity and localization of microbial consortium in a full-scale phenol-degrading granular activated carbon anaerobic reactor) (2007)
  • 2005 Young Asian Biotechnologist Prize (2005)
  • JSPS Visiting Scientist (2003)
  • Research Award (2000)