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Mengyan Li

Li, Mengyan
Assistant Professor, Chemistry and Environmental Science
384 Tiernan Hall

Dr. Mengyan “Ian” Li joins NJIT in 2015 from Rice University, where he is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering specializing in environmental microbiology and biotechnology. Dr. Li develops water remediation techniques that deploy microorganisms to biodegrade organic pollutants of emerging global concern. He also researches interdisciplinary methods for improving urban water treatment technologies, including the use of nanotechnology to disinfect supplies contaminated with pathogens. To assess the microbial activity in remediation and treatment processes, he has developed genetic forensic tools, such as a novel biomarker test to evaluate the biodegradation of 1,4-dioxane, a groundwater contaminant. That work won him the Honor Award in the Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science competition held by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists. His ultimate research goal is to advance our knowledge on applied microbiology and molecular biotechnology and develop innovative techniques to mitigate and address environmental issues related to water and energy development. Beyond research, he has extensive experience and passion on educating undergraduate and graduate students and teaching courses on topics of environmental biology and microbiology.


  • PhD Environmental Engineering, 2013, Rice University, USA
  • MS Environmental Engineering, 2010, Rice University, USA
  • BE Environmental Engineering (honors), 2008, Nankai University, China

Professional Experience

  • Assistant Professor, 2015–present, Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science, New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, 2014–2015, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rice University

Honors and Awards

  • Honor Award for the Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science™ Competition in the category of University Research by American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES) (2014)
  • Student Paper Winner for the Ninth International Conference on Remediation of Chlorinated and Recalcitrant Compounds (2014)
  • The 5th Annual Geosyntec™ Student Paper Competition, 2nd place (2014)
  • Outstanding Graduation Dissertation of Nankai University (2008)
  • Outstanding College Graduate of Nankai University (2008)
  • National Li-Zhi Fellowship for College Students, China (2007)


  • Proposal reviewer for National Science Foundation (NSF) and Water Resources Research Institute Program (WRRI)
  • Manuscript reviewer for Biodegradation, Bioresource Technology, Environmental Science and Technology, Environmental Science and Technology Letters, Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Green Chemistry, International Biodeterioration and Biodegradation, International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, Journal of Environmental Quality, Journal of Hazardous Materials, Microbial Ecology, Water Environment Research, Water Research, and Water Science and Technology.
  • Member of American Society of Microbiology (ASM), American Chemical Society (ACS), Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP), Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), American Water Works Association (AWWA), NACE Corrosion, and Sigma Xi.

EvSc 375 Environmental Biology

EvSc 385 Environmental Microbiology

EvSc 622 Bioremediation

My primary research interest is oriented to uncover novel biodegradation metabolisms and biotransformation pathways for emerging organic contaminants (e.g., 1,4-dioxane, PFASs, and PPCPs) and develop accordant genetic forensic tools to facilitate the assessment of microbiological activities in the environment. By incorporating modern biomolecular techniques and analytical instruments, my research is also expanded to cover from fundamental understanding of microorganisms and populations involved in natural and engineered systems of environmental relevance to technology innovation applicable for areas, such as sustainable water/wastewater treatment, bioenergy generation, biocorrosion prevention, and pathogen control. The central goal of my research is to advance current bioremediation and water treatment technologies using state-of-art molecular biological techniques to promote their performance and cost-efficiency.

Research Articles

(* indicates Li as the corresponding author; # indicates members of Li’s lab at NJIT)

  1. Deng, D.#, F. Li#, and M. Li* (2017). "A novel propane monooxygenase initiating degradation of 1,4-dioxane by Mycobacterium dioxanotrophicus PH-06." Environmental Science and Technology Letters. (DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.7b00504) (in press) (ACS Editors’ Choice) (Featured Cover)
  2. Li, M.*, Y. Yang, Y. He, J. Mathieu, C. Yu, Q. Li, and P. J. J. Alvarez (2018). "Detection and cell sorting of Pseudonocardia species by Fluorescence in situ Hybridization and Flow Cytometry using 16S rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes." Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology. (accepted)
  3. He, Y., J. Mathieu, M. L. B. da Silva, M. Li, and P. J. J. Alvarez (2018). "1,4-Dioxane degrading consortia can be enriched from uncontaminated soils: prevalence of Mycobacterium and soluble di-iron monooxygenase genes." Microbial Biotechnology. 11(1), 189–198 (DOI: 10.1111/1751-7915.12850)
  4. He, Y., K. Wei, K. Si, J. Mathieu, M. Li*, and P. J. J. Alvarez (2017). "Whole Genome Sequence of 1,4-Dioxane Degrading Bacterium Mycobacterium dioxanotrophicus PH-06." Genome Announcements. 5: e00625-17 (DOI: 10.1128/genomeA.00625-17)
  5. Liu, N., H. Li, M. Li, L. Ding, C. Weng, and C. Dong (2017). "Oxygen exposure effects on the dechlorinating activities of a trichloroethene-dechlorination microbial consortium." Bioresource Technology. 240 (2017): 98-105. (DOI: 10.1016/j.biortech.2017.02.112)
  6. Li, M.*, Y. Liu, Y. He, J. Mathieu, J. Hatton, W. DiGuiseppi, and P. J. J. Alvarez (2017). "Hindrance of 1,4-dioxane biodegradation in microcosms biostimulated with inducing or non-inducing auxiliary substrates." Water Research. 112 (2017): 217–225. (DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2017.01.047)
  7. Xu, X., J. Shao, M. Li, K. Gao, J. Jin, L. Zhu (2016). “Reductive Transformation of p-chloronitrobenzene in the upflow anaerobic sludge blanket reactor coupled with microbial electrolysis cell: performance and microbial community.” Bioresource Technology. 218 (2016): 1037–1045. (DOI: 10.1016/j.biortech.2016.07.037)
  8. Yu, P., J. Mathieu, M. Li, Z. Dai, and P. J. J. Alvarez (2016). “Isolation of polyvalent bacteriophages using sequential multiple host approaches.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 82 (3): 808–815. (DOI: 10.1128/AEM.02382-15)
  9. N. Liu, Y. Shi, M. Li, T. Zhang, and S. Gao (2015). “Simultaneous determination of four trace estrogens in feces, leachate, tap and groundwater using solid–liquid extraction/auto solid‐phase extraction and high‐performance liquid chromatography with fluorescence detection.” Journal of Separation Science. 28 (20): 3494-3501. (DOI: 10.1002/jssc.201500443)
  10. Li, M., E. T. Van Orden, D. DeVries, X. Zhong, R. Hinchee, and P. J. J. Alvarez (2015). “Bench-scale biodegradation tests to assess natural attenuation potential of 1,4-dioxane at three California sites.” Biodegradation. 26 (1): 39–50. (DOI: 10.1007/s10532-014-9714-1)
  11. Zeng, G.,Y. Liu, L. Tang, G. Yang, Y. Pang, Y. Zhang, Y. Zhou, Z. Li, M. Li, M. Lai, Y. He (2015). “Enhancement of Cd (II) adsorption by polyacrylic acid modified magnetic mesoporous carbon.” Chemical Engineering Journal. 259 (2015): 153–160. (DOI: 10.1016/j.cej.2014.07.115)
  12. Yang, Y., M. Li, C. Michels, H Moreira‐Soares, and P. J. J. Alvarez (2014). "Inhibitory effect of silver nanoparticles on nitrifying bacteria and their activity in activated sludge and consequent shift of their community structure." Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology. 33 (10): 2234–2239. (DOI: 10.1002/etc.2678)
  13. Li, M., J. Mathieu, Y. Liu, E. T. Van Orden, Y. Yang, S. Fiorenza, and P. J. J. Alvarez (2014). "The abundance of tetrahydrofuran/dioxane monooxygenase genes (thmA/dxmA) and 1,4-dioxane degradation activity are significantly correlated at various impacted aquifers." Environmental Science and Technology Letters. 1 (1): 122–127. (DOI: 10.1021/ez400176h)
  14. Yang, Y., J. Quensen, J. Mathieu, Q. Wang, J. Wang, M. Li, J. M. Tiedje and P. J. J. Alvarez (2014). "Pyrosequencing reveals higher impact of silver nanoparticles than Ag+ on the microbial community structure of activated sludge." Water Research. 48 (1): 317–325. (DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2013.09.046)
  15. Li, M., J. Mathieu, Y. Yang, S. Fiorenza, Y. Deng, Z. He, J. Zhou and P. J. J. Alvarez (2013). "Widespread distribution of soluble di-iron monooxygenase (SDIMO) genes in Arctic groundwater impacted by 1,4-dioxane." Environmental Science and Technology. 47(17): 9950–9958. (DOI: 10.1021/es402228x)
  16. Li, M., P. Conlon, S. Fiorenza, R. J. Vitale and P. J. J. Alvarez (2011). "Rapid analysis of 1,4-dioxane in groundwater by Frozen Micro-Extraction with Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry." Ground Water Monitoring and Remediation 31(4): 70-76. (DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-6592.2011.01350.x)
  17. Li, M., S. Fiorenza, J. R. Chatham, S. Mahendra and P. J. J. Alvarez (2010). "1,4-Dioxane biodegradation at low temperatures in Arctic groundwater samples." Water Research 44(9): 2894-2900. (DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2010.02.007)
  18. Zhang, Z., M. Li, W. Chen, S. Zhu, N. Liu and L. Zhu (2010). "Immobilization of lead and cadmium from aqueous solution and contaminated sediment using nano-hydroxyapatite." Environmental Pollution 158(2): 514-519. (DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2009.08.024)


  1. Li, M., J. Mathieu, and P. J. J. Alvarez. “Monitoring of 1,4-dioxane biodegradation in various environments.” US Patent 20150184232 A1.
  2. Zhu, L., Z. Zhang, C. Chang, and M. Li. "In-situ covering method for heavy metal in nano-agustite immobilized sediment." PRC Patent 200810153104.0.