My Life at the Intersection of Water Microbiology, Engineering, and Health


My Life at the Intersection of Water Microbiology, Engineering, and Health

Joan B. Rose, Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research, Michigan State University

4:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m., August 29, 2020

Joan B. Rose

  • Homer Nowlin Chair in Water Research
  • Michigan State University
  • Winner of the 2016 Stockholm Water Prize

Thursday, April 16 at 3:30 p.m.

140 DeBartolo Hall



Contamination of drinking water and recreational waters remains the most significant issue throughout the world. The global threats are immense and seem to be growing from the resurgence of ancient diseases, such as cholera, to the emergence of new pathogens. Links between water security and food security have also highlighted the need for better science at this interface. Advances in genomics research, technologies, mathematics, and earth sciences all point the way forward. To address the major challenges in protecting and managing water resources, we will need to invest in the foundational characterization of our water microbiological communities, understand the risks, and address resilience under global change.

Focusing on these major challenges throughout my career I have learned many important lessons about how to collaborate, to continually learn, take chances, and share what I have learned. Our global community will continue to work toward achieving sustainable safe water working in four key areas. First, new detection technology (genetic sequencing) is needed for exploring the water microbiome. We then need to use these technologies to connect earth systems and microbial distributions. Engineering innovations for microbial water safety are also needed. Finally, we must interface mathematics with microbes for quantitative risk assessments.


Joan B. Rose is an international expert in water microbiology, water quality, and public health safety. She promotes new tools for environmental surveillance of waterborne pathogens thorough various exposure pathways to be used in quantitative microbial risk assessment.

Rose is involved in examining indoor exposure pathways using advanced microbial diagnostics for bacteria, protozoa, and viruses and has extensive experience using tracer studies to inform the models she and her team create. She is also involved in novel nanopore technology to monitor pathogens in the environment and droplet digital multiplexing polymerase chain reaction. Rose has published more than 300 manuscripts. She currently leads the Global Water Pathogens Project and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. She is the winner of the 2016 Stockholm Water Prize and the 2001 Clarke Water Prize. She earned her Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Arizona at Tucson and M.S. from the University of Wyoming.