Ling receives Powe Junior Faculty Award

Fangqiong Ling plans to integrate field experiments and computational analysis to study the subterrestrial microbiome in groundwater with a Powe Junior Faculty Award

Beth Miller 
Fangqiong Ling
Fangqiong Ling

Fangqiong Ling, assistant professor of energy, environmental & chemical engineering, has received a Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU).

Ling was one of 36 recipients of the one-year award, which provides $5,000 in seed money to junior faculty at ORAU-associated institutions, which is matched by the institution. The award is designed to enrich the research and professional growth of young faculty and result in new funding opportunities. Winners may use the grants to purchase equipment, continue research or travel to professional meetings and conferences.

Ling is the sixth McKelvey Engineering faculty member in 12 years to receive the award. Four previous recipients, Young-Shin Jun and Yinjie Tang, professors; Fuzhong Zhang, associate professor; and John Fortner, former associate professor, are faculty in the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical engineering; and Rohan Mishra is an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science.

With the funding, Ling plans to integrate field experiments and computational analysis to study the subterrestrial microbiome in groundwater. In particular, she will study the functional potentials, which include carbon cycling, nitrogen cycling and metal reduction.

"My long-term goal is to elucidate the assembly mechanisms of subterrestrial microbiomes and their consequences in global biogeochemical cycling," she said. "These findings will enable the manipulation of early immigration history to achieve desirable ecosystem functions."


Ling is collaborating with Terry Hazen, the University of Tennessee/Oak Ridge National Laboratory Governor's Chair Professor at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, a renowned expert in subterrestrial microbial ecology. A doctoral student from Ling's lab will work with Hazen to collect microbial samples. Then, they will perform DNA sequencing to produce data about the composition and function of the microbes to find the functional potential. Ling will then apply machine learning techniques to identify potential determinants to community functions.

Ling leads a computational and experimental lab to study bacterial colonization and transmission at the boundary of built and natural environments. She explores microbiomes as environmental sensors and public health sentinels. The lab's ultimate goal is to discover the principles underlying the diversity, functioning and resilience of microbial ecosystems and develop tools to enable ecologically aware designs.

She also studies assembly, structure and dynamics of bacterial communities in tap water and water supply networks; biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in biofuel production processes; development of population matrices based on personal microbiome data; and development of tools to tackle hospital-acquired infections.

Fangqiong Ling joined the WashU faculty in August 2018. Previously, she was a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She earned doctoral and master's degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2016 and 2011, respectively; and a bachelor's degree from Tsinghua University in 2008.

Oak Ridge Associated Universities is a university consortium that combines the scientific strength of 121 major research institutions to advance science and education by partnering with national laboratories, government agencies and private industry.

The McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis promotes independent inquiry and education with an emphasis on scientific excellence, innovation and collaboration without boundaries. McKelvey Engineering has top-ranked research and graduate programs across departments, particularly in biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and computing, and has one of the most selective undergraduate programs in the country. With 165 full-time faculty, 1,420 undergraduate students, 1,614 graduate students and 21,000 living alumni, we are working to solve some of society’s greatest challenges; to prepare students to become leaders and innovate throughout their careers; and to be a catalyst of economic development for the St. Louis region and beyond.

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