Michael D. Aitken, PhD

Chair Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Professor Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering

T:(919) 966-1024


166 Rosenau Hall

CB #7431

Chapel Hill, NC 27599


Dr. Aitken's research focuses on the application of microbial processes to the biodegradation of organic pollutants (particularly polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and to waste treatment problems. This work has increasingly involved current methods in molecular microbial ecology, including DNA-based stable-isotope probing, high-throughput pyrosequencing and metagnomic sequencing.

He also is interested in evaluating the extent to which bioavailability governs the rate and extent of degradation of hydrophobic chemicals in contaminated systems, as well as the effects of bioremediation strategies on the genotoxicity of contaminated soil. Please see his website (www.unc.edu/~aitken) for information on specific projects and recent publications from his research group.

Key Publications

Bioavailability of (geno)toxic contaminants in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-contaminated soil before and after biological treatment. Alden Adrion, Michael Aitken, Jing Hu, Jun Nakamura, Damian Shea (2014). Environmental Engineering Science, 31(4), 176-182.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon degradation of phytoplankton-associated Arenibacter spp. and description of Arenibacter algicola sp. nov., an aromatic hydrocarbon-degrading bacterium. Michael Aitken, David Berry, Tony Gutierrez, Sara Mishamandani, Peter Nichols, Glenn Rhodes, Kirk Semple, William Whitman (2014). Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 80(2), 618-628.

Role of methylotrophs in the degradation of hydrocarbons during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Michael Aitken, Tony Gutierrez (2014). ISME Journal.

DNA-based stable isotope probing coupled with cultivation methods implicates Methylophaga in hydrocarbon degradation. Michael Aitken, Tony Gutierrez, Sara Mishamandani (2014). Frontiers in Microbiology, 5.

Biostimulation reveals functional redundancy of Anthracene-degrading bacteria in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-contaminated soil. Michael Aitken, Sage Dunlevy, David Singleton (2013). Environmental Engineering Science, 30(11), 697-705.


PhD, Civil Engineering, University of Notre Dame, 1988

MS, Civil Engineering, University of California, Davis, 1980

BS, Civil Engineering, University at Buffalo, 1978