students working on designs at desk

The Presidential Initiative is intended to foster excellence and preeminence in urban and place-based research and creative work at CU Denver through offering funding, coordinating faculty across campus, communicating outcomes, enabling connections with partners in the community, and serving as a resource for sharing data and best practices. In so doing, it is intended to both increase the impact of CU Denver’s urban and place-based research and creative work, and to attract and fund faculty and students interested in this domain. While focused on urban issues generally, the Initiative emphasizes work relevant to the Front Range, particularly when it has implications nationally or internationally.

The Initiative funds projects that address critical and timely topics related to cities, such as:  Social and Environmental Justice, Equity and Inclusion, Affordable Housing, Plan Making, Public Spaces, Global Cities, Smart Cities, Urban Informatics, Artificial Intelligence for Cities, Infrastructure, Transportation and Mobility, Climate Adaptation, Green Infrastructure, Air and Water Quality, Urban Ecology, Biomimicry, Green Real Estate Development, Public Health, Water and Energy Use, Natural Hazards Mitigation, Environmental Policy, Public Finance, Historic Preservation, Creative Industries, Placemaking, Community Development, Arts and Urban Revitalization, Healthcare Access, Economic Development, Behavioral Economics, Education Policy and Practice, Public Policy and Governance, Public Safety, Public Engagement, Entrepreneurship, Urban Design, Construction Management, and much more.

The 2021 Request for Proposals for seed grants  is now closed. Full descriptions of the projects awarded in the 2020 round of funding are given from the links below.

2021 Award Recipients

Establishing a Mechanistic Understanding of How Microbial Communities Remediate Groundwater Pollution at an EPA Superfund Site in the Denver Metropolitan Area

Date: 10/1/2020
microbial superfund research
Principal Researchers: Chris Miller and Timberley Roane

Unit: Department of Integrative Biology

Project Abstract:
Rapid growth in the Denver metropolitan area has brought increasing population density adjacent to once remote municipal and industrial waste sites. This physical intersection of development and contaminated landfills has implications for drinking water quality, air quality, and other public health concerns. One such contaminated site is the former Lowry Landfill in Aurora, CO, a US Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site owned by the City and County of Denver. This site has long been recognized as a source of toxic 1,4-dioxane groundwater contamination. Since 2003, an above-ground bioreactor enabled by naturally present microbes has served as a nationally-recognized local success story in bioremediation. However, a surprising lack of understanding about the basic microbiology responsible for this bioremediation process has meant that this success has failed to replicate at other similar sites, and that changing groundwater contaminant profiles pose a risk to future operational success of the plant. 

The objective of this interdisciplinary research is to provide a genome-resolved mechanistic understanding of the biochemical metabolisms and microbial community ecosystem interactions that are responsible for 1,4-dioxane remediation at the Lowry Landfill bioremediation plant. Student researchers will use high-throughput DNA sequencing and computational biology to investigate the microbial mechanisms underlying successful bioremediation. Our overarching goal is that the new knowledge generated from this project will be applied immediately to improved management of the Lowry Landfill site, and in the future to improved management of similar sites with 1,4-dioxane contamination around the state and country.

View project updates from the 2021 Fall Research Showcase [PDF]

Chris Miller Bio:
Chris Miller is an Associate Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Colorado Denver.  His lab develops and applies bioinformatic and genome-enabled approaches to study microbial communities.  Recent publications from students in the Miller lab have applied high-throughput DNA sequencing and computational approaches to study the role of freshwater wetland soil microbes in cycling of the greenhouse gas methane, to study the evolution and diversity of the archaeal domain of life, and to investigate the role of environmental pollutants on the gut microbiome of animal hosts.  Dr. Miller’s work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Energy, and private foundations.  At CU Denver, Dr. Miller regularly teaches courses in Genomics and Bioinformatics, Biotechnology, and General Biology.  Dr. Miller received his PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of California Los Angeles, and did Postdoctoral research at the University of California Berkeley before joining CU Denver in 2012.

Timberley Roane Bio:
Dr. Timberley Roane received her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in 1999.  Dr. Roane is currently an Associate Professor of Environmental Microbiology in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Colorado Denver.  Her research interests are in the discovery and elucidation of innovative microbial applications such as in ecosystem restoration, chemical mitigation, and energy production.  In collaboration with a variety of scientific, regulatory, and community organizations, her research has been sponsored by federal research agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Park Service.  Regularly publishing and presenting their research, Dr. Roane’s program combines conventional and advanced molecular and biochemical approaches to the study of microorganisms, and involves students from diverse backgrounds, educational levels, and scientific interests.  Dr. Roane is currently a director of the Environmental Stewardship of Indigenous Lands certificate program and is the faculty sponsor of the CU Denver American Indian Science and Engineering Society student organization.

2020 Award Recipients