ASU researcher selected for 'Forty Under 40' honors

Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown

The Phoenix Business Journal has named ASU’s Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown to its 2012 “Forty Under 40” list that honors young leaders in the metropolitan area. Krajmalnik-Brown is a scientist who uses new genomic-based tools to uncover the roles of microscopic organisms to clean water, produce energy and positively impact human health. 

“My fascination with small life forms and their potential to help solve societal problems drives my research,” says Krajmalnik-Brown, who conducts her research at the Biodesign Institute’s Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology. 

Krajmalnik-Brown is studying the link between differing microbial populations in the human gut and body weight among normal-weight individuals, those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery, and patients classified as morbidly obese. She hopes her research in partnership with Mayo Clinic Arizona will lead to therapies to alter these gut microbes, enabling weight reduction and improved health. She also is exploring similar differences in gut microoganisms between patients with autism and those not diagnosed with the disorder. 

“Dr. Krajmalnik-Brown is taking the daring and transformative step of transferring powerful tools from the realm of environmental sustainability to the realm of sustainable human health,” says Bruce Rittmann, director of the Swette Center, who says he is proud he recruited Krajmalnik-Brown to ASU. “Her work is at the core of how we create partnerships with microorganisms so that they provide services to improve environmental sustainability.” 

Krajmalnik-Brown has made significant contributions to her research team’s work with microbes to detoxify contaminated water, wastewater, sediments and soil. She also applies similar techniques and principles to improve energy generating systems.

Krajmalnik-Brown left Mexico City to study in the United States. She completed her doctoral degree in environmental engineering at Georgia Tech University. 

“The turning point in my career was not in achieving my degree, but in having the opportunity to conduct research at the Biodesign Institute,” she says. “The support and facilities here have always made me feel that if I can dream it, I can do it.

“I love my job," she adds. "Dr. Rittmann has always treated me as a rising star with extreme potential – trusting me and providing plenty of opportunities to exploit and demonstrate my potential. I have learned from him that through hard-focused work and great people-management skills, anything can be achieved.” 

In addition to her appointment at the Biodesign Institute, Krajmalnik-Brown is an assistant professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. 

See the complete list of the class of 2012.