University of Houston
Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering
N107 Engineering Building 1
Houston, TX 77204-4003
Phone: 713-743-4250
Fax: 713-743-4260
Contact us


Debora Rodrigues, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

UH Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
N136 Engineering Building 1, Houston, TX 77204-4003

Phone: 713-743-1495 | Fax: 713-743-4260
Email: dfrigirodrigues [at] uh [dot] edu


  • Ph.D., Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Michigan State University, 2002-2007
  • M.S. in Sciences, Microbiology, University of São Paulo, Brazil, 2000- 2002
  • B.S. in Biology and Biology Education, University of São Paulo, Brazil, 1995- 1999

Professional Experience

2010-Present Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Cullen College of Engineering, University of Houston, Houston, Texas
2007-2010 Yale University, Environmental Engineering Program, Chemical Engineering Department – Advisor: Dr. Menachem Elimelech
  • Member of the Environmental Engineering Seminar Committee (Spring 2009)
  • Investigating mechanisms of bacterial adhesion to surfaces and biofilm formation.
  • Investigating the antimicrobial effects of carbon nanotubes on viruses and bacteria.
  • Developed and wrote a section on microbiology for an NSF proposal: Carbon Nanotubes in Soils: Transport, Filtration, and Impact on Soil Microbial Community (funding awarded: 2008).
2002-2007 Michigan State University, Center for Microbial Ecology/Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Department Ph.D. Degree, Graduate Research Assistant - Advisor: Dr. James Tiedje
Thesis Title: Ecology, physiology and metabolism of cold-adapted Microorganisms from the Siberian permafrost
  • Member of the Graduate Admissions Committee (Spring 2005 - Fall 2006).
  • Graduate teaching assistant (Spring 2004).
  • Developed and wrote a proposal to the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Biological and Environmental Research (OBER) to sequence two microbial genomes (funding allocated directly to JGI in 2006).
2000-2002 University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil, Microbiology Department
Masters Degree, Graduate Research Assistant - Advisor: Dr. Vivian Helena Pellizari
Thesis title: Polyphasic characterization of xenobiotic pollutant-degrading bacteria diversity in Santos Estuary.
1999-2000 Ambiterra Ltda. Environmental Technology, São Paulo, Brazil. Microbiologist consultant
Responsible for conducting validation tests in a hospital waste-treatment plant for environmental agencies in São Paulo (CETESB and São Paulo Secretary of Green and Environment).
1998-1999 University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil, Microbiology department Undergraduate Research assistant
Advisor: Dr. Vivian Helena Pellizari/ Dr. James Tiedje
  • Investigated virus movement in underground water.
  • Investigated PCB-degrading bacteria from Antarctica (Collected and analyzed samples in Antarctica in December 1998 and performed further analyses while at Michigan State University, from May to July 1999).
1995-1996 University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil, Biology department Undergraduate Research assistant
Advisors: Dr. Maria Rita Passos-Bueno/ Dr. Mayana Zatz
Investigated leporine lips and cleft palate gene association in the Brazilian population. Provided technical help to demonstrate linkage of two Duchene muscular dystrophy-like families to 5q33-34.



  • CIVE 4331 - Water Quality
  • CIVE 6391- Environmental Engineering Microbiology
  • CIVE 7397- Advanced Environmental Engineering Microbiology

Students Supervised

  • Isis Mejias (Ph.D. student)
  • Tugba Onal Okyay (Ph.D. candidate)
  • Sean Smith (Ph.D. candidate)
  • Nuygen Hang (Ph.D. candidate)
  • Fan Jingjing (Ph.D candidate)
  • Caitlin Carrigan ( M.S. student)
  • Felipe Ibañez (Post-doctoral fellow)
  • Ruji Medina (Ph.D. visiting scholar)

Former Laboratory Members

  • Alex Leon (undergraduate)
  • Krystal Gutierrez (undergraduate)
  • Yvonne Musico (Ph.D. visiting scholar)
  • Dr. Farid Ahmed (Ph.D. student)
  • Dr. Catherine M. Santos 


Awards and Honors

  • NSF Career Award Grant recipient: “Toxicology of graphene-based nanomaterials: A molecular biotechnology approach”. Award amount: $ 449,367
  • Grant recipient of RET in Engineering and Computer Science Site at the University of Houston: “Innovations in Nanotechnology”. Award amount: $ 429,288
  • NSF I-Corps award recipient in 2013: “Graphene-based nanocomposite filters for antibacterial and heavy metal removal”. Award amount: $50,000
  • Grant recipient of Grants to Enhance and Advance Research (GEAR):" Development of multifunctional Carbon-Based Nanomaterial Composite Coatings and corrosion". Award amount: $30,000
  • Grant recipient of New Faculty Research Program – University of Houston. Award amount: $6,000
Travel Awards:
  • Gordon Research Conference on Environmental Sciences: Water (USA): Travel award, $750 (2008)
  • AEESP meeting (USA): Travel award, $500 (2009)
  • IWA Specialist Conference on Applications of Nanotechnology in the Water Sector fellowship: Travel award, $2,100 (2011)
Awards and Fellowships: 
  • FAPESP (Brazil): Graduate Research Fellowship, $ 10,500 (2000-2002).
  • FAPESP (Brazil): Research Support Fellowship, $2,100 (2000).
  • CNPq – Brazilian Antarctic Program (Proantar) (Brazil): Antarctic research fellowship, $2,100 (2000). 
  • CNPq-PIBIC (Brazil): undergraduate research fellowship, $1,600 (1998)
  • CNPq-PIBIC (Brazil): undergraduate research fellowship, $1,600 (1995)
  • Michigan State University: graduate research assistanship (USA), $67,830 (2002-2007).
  • Marvis A. Richardson Fellowship (USA), $ 2,000 (2006)
  • ASCE ExCEEd Fellowship (USA), $2,075 (2011)
  • Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award from the University of Houston Commission on Women (2013),  $1,000
  • UH Cullen College of Engineering Outstanding Professor Award (2013)
  • UH Cullen College of Engineering Outstanding Teaching Award (2013)
  • UH CEE Outstanding faculty award (2013)

Research Interests

My research interests involve toxicity and applications of nanomaterials to water treatment and biocorrosion prevention, the effects of global climate change to microorganisms, biofilm formation, and the production of biofuels from algae.


  • Rodrigues, D. F.; Ahmed. Application of membranes containing single-walled carbon nanotube-polymer nanocomposites for water treatment. 68th Southwest Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society, November 4-7, 2012. Baton Rouge, LA.
  • Rodrigues, D.F; Ahmed, F.; Santos, C.M. PVK-SWNT and PVK-MWNT coated stainless steel for prevention of microbial growth and corrosion. ASME 2012, November 15th, 2012. Houston, TX.
  • Carpio, I.E., C.M. Santos, R.C. Advincula, D.F.Rodrigues. Environmental Engineering applications of graphene oxide nanomaterials: 243rd ACS National Meeting & Exposition, March 25-29th, 2012. San Diego, CA.
  • Rodrigues, D.F. Applications of graphene oxide nanomaterials on surfaces. 32nd PAASE Meeting, May 5th, 2012, Houston, TX.
  • Rodrigues, D. F. Environmental Engineering applications of carbon-based nanomaterials. University of Texas San Antonio, April 6th 2012, San Antonio, TX.
  • Ahmed, F.; Santos, C.M.; Advincula, R.; Rodrigues, D.F. Protection of Stainless Steel Surfaces Against Biofilm Formation and Corrosion by Nanocomposite Coatings. 6th International Conference on Environmental Science and Technology, June 25-29, 2012, Houston, TX.
  • Ahmed, F., D.F. Rodrigues. Application of Electroactive PVK-SWNT Nanocomposite as Effective Antimicrobial Coating Material for Membrane Filter. Texas Water, April 10-13th 2012, San Antonio, TX.
  • Claydon, F.; Long, S.; Rodrigues, D.F. Research Experience for Teachers (RET) site at the University of Houston (UH) “ Innovations in Nanotechnology”. National Science Foundation Engineering Education Awardees Conference, March 4-6th, 2012. Arlington, Virginia.
  • Santos, C.M., R.C. Advincula, D.F. Rodrigues. Fabrication and antibacterial applications of carbon nanomaterial containing polymer based nanocomposites: 243rd ACS National Meeting & Exposition, March 25-29th 2012, San Diego, CA.
  • Borba, T. R., S. K. Sakata, R.V.P. Ferreira, M. H. Bellini, D. F. Rodrigues, J. T. Marumo. Application of Bacteria to Remove Americium from Radioactive Liquid Waste: WM2011 Conference, February 27 - March 3, 2011, Phoenix, AZ.
  • Ahmed F., C. M. Santos, K. M. Cui, R.C. Advincula, D. F. Rodrigues*. Antimicrobial Properties of Membrane-filters modified with carbon-based nanomaterials: IWA (International Water Association) Conference, 15-18 May 2011, Monte Verita, Switzerland. (*Invited speaker)
  • Rodrigues, D.F., 2010. Microbial Interactions with Carbon nanotubes: from single cells to biofilms. In: University of Houston, Houston, July 23th. (Invited speaker for the UH-AGEP program).
  • Rodrigues, D. F., 2009.Microbial Interactions with Carbon nanotubes: from single cells to biofilms. In: University of Texas, San Antonio, March 19th. (Invited speaker).
  • Rodrigues, D. F., 2009.Microbial Interactions with Carbon nanotubes: from single cells to biofilms. In: University of Delaware, March 11th. (Invited speaker).
  • Rodrigues, D. F., 2009. Biogeography, Diversity, and Physiology of Extreme Microbes. In: Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, January 29th. (Invited speaker).
  • Rodrigues, D.F., 2009. Microbial Interactions with Carbon nanotubes: from single cells to biofilms. In: University of California, Los Angeles, January 27th. (Invited speaker).
  • Rodrigues, D. F., Elimelech, M. 2008. Influence of D-mannose on Biofilm Formation. In: Gordon Research Conference on Environmental Sciences: Water, Holderness, NH, June 22-27.
  • Rodrigues, D.F., Elimelech, M. 2008. Influence of Carbon Source on Biofilm Formation. In: 235th ACS meeting, New Orleans, April 10th.
  • Rodrigues, D.F., H.L. Ayala-del-Río, D. Gilichinsky, V.H. Pellizari, E.C. Jesus, L. Sepulveda-Torres, J.M. Tiedje. 2007. Is the Bass-Becking Hypothesis true: “The Environment Selects and is Responsible for Spatial Variation in Microbial Diversity?”. Amer. Soc. Microbiol. General Meeting, Toronto, Canada. # N-026.
  • Rodrigues, D. F., Ivanova, N. & Tiedje, J.M. 2006. Metabolism inference from the genome of Exiguobacterium sibiricum sp. isolated from the Siberian permafrost [Abstract]. Amer. Soc. Microbiol. General Meeting, Orlando, FL. # K-080.
  • Rodrigues, D.F., H.L. Ayala-del-Río,C.-J. Lin, D.Gilichinsky, J.M. Tiedje. 2006. Detection and Quantification in the Siberian permafrost of Exiguobacterium sp. and Psychrobacter sp. through quantitative real-time PCR. In: International Conference on Alpine and Polar Microbiology, Innsbruck, Austria, March 27-31.
  • Rodrigues, D.F., C.J. Lin, N.K. Rehman, D. Gilichinsky, J.M. Tiedje. 2005. Exiguobacterium spp. abundance in the Siberian permafrost. Abstract 39. In: The Joint International Symposia for Subsurface Microbiology (ISSM 2005) and Environmental Biochemistry (ISEB XVII), Jackson Hole, WY, Aug. 14-19.
  • Vishnivetskaya, T. A., R. Ramaley, D. F. Rodrigues, J. M. Tiedje, and S. Kathariou. 2005. Exiguobacterium from frozen subsurface sediments (Siberian Permafrost) and other sources have growth temperature ranges reflective of the environmental thermocline of their origin. Abstract 254. In: The Joint International Symposia for Subsurface Microbiology (ISSM 2005) and Environmental Biogeochemistry (ISEB XVII), Jackson Hole, WY, August 14-19.
  • Rodrigues, D.F., J. Goris, M.F. Thomashow, J.M. Tiedje. 2005. Phylogeny of three Exiguobacterium isolates from Arctic permafrost. Astrobiology 5:264.
  • Gilmour J.S., D. Rodrigues, J.M. Tiedje, D.M. Lubman, M.F. Thomashow. 2002. Changes in Gene Expression in Response to low temperature in two Psychrobacter isolates from Arctic Permafrost. Astrobiology 2: 549.
  • Rodrigues, D.F., A. C. Lopez, G.T. Yogui, R.C. Montone, M. Bícego, G. Manfio, V.H. Pellizari. 2001. Isolation and characterization of hydrocarbons and polychlorinated biphenyl bacterial consortia from Santos Estuary. In: XXI Brazilian Conference in microbiology. Foz do Iguaçu, RS, Brazil.
  • Gilson, P.M., V.H. Pellizari, V.M. de Oliveira, R.F. Vazoller, A. Conationi, D.F. Rodrigues, G. Bellincanta, F.F. Piza, C. R. Nakayama, F. Talarico. 2000. Diversity of aerobic organochlorine-degrading bacteria in nature. In:I Biota/FAPESP program symposia. São Paulo, Brazil.
  • Rodrigues, D.F., B.A. Matos, A. Pacheco, V.H. Pellizari. 2000. Transport and retention of coliphage T4 in soil Columns from a Cemetery in São Paulo, Brazil. In: International Water Association Health - Related Water Microbiology Symposium. Paris, France. July 3-7.
  • Rodrigues, D.F., G.B.Ghion, A.Rubin, R.Montone, R.R.Weber, V.H.Pellizari. 1999.
  • Rodrigues, D. F. Characterization and degradation ability of bacteria isolated from Antarctica. In: The Joint 1o International Scientific Initiation Symposia and 7o Scientific Initiation of University of São Paulo, Brazil.
  • Rodrigues, D.F., M.R. Passos-Bueno. 1996. Leporine lips and cleft palates gene association in the Brazilian population. In: 4o Scientific Initiation of University of São Paulo, Brazil.

Selected Publications

Reviewer for Scholarly Journals
Environmental Science and Technology, Applied and Environmental Microbiology,FEMS Microbiology Letter, FEMS Microbiology Ecology, Journal of Biotechnology, Antarctic Science, Current Microbiology, Journal of Basic Microbiology, Global Research Journal of Microbiology, Biofouling, Extremophiles, Open Forensic Science Journal, Journal of Environmental Informatics, RSC Advance, Soft Matter,Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, Analytical Methods, Journal of Zhejiang University Science B, International Journal of Ambient Energy, nanoscale, Langmuir,Toxicology Research, ACS nano, Journal of Materials Chemistry
Referred Journal Publications (in chronological order)

1. Onal, T.O.; Rodrigues, D.F. Optimized carbonate micro-particle production by Sporosarcina pasteurii using response surface methodology  (accepted in Ecol. Eng. J.)

2. Onal, T.O.; Rodrigues, D.F. High Throughput Colorimetric Assay for Rapid Urease Activity Quantification. (accepted in J. Microbiol. Methods) (DOI: 10.1016/j.mimet.2013.09.018).

3. Ahmed, F.; Santos, C.M.; Rodrigues, D.F. Implications of Graphene Oxide on wastewater microbial communities and wastewater treatment process performance. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 256– 257 (2013) 33– 39.

4. Ahmed, F.; Santos, C.M.; Mangadlao, J.; Advincula, R.; Rodrigues, D.F. Application of electroactive PVK-SWNT nanocomposite as effective antimicrobial coating material for membrane filter. 2013. Water Research, V. 47 (12), 3966–3975.

5. Smith S.C., Rodrigues D.F. The Fate of Carbon-Based Nanomaterials in the Environment. J Bioremed Biodeg, 2013. 3:e129. doi:10.4172/2155-6199.1000e129.

6. Musico,  Y.L.F.; Santos, C.M.; Dalida, M.L.; Rodrigues, D.F. Improved removal of lead(II) from water using a polymer-based graphene oxide nanocomposite. J Mat Chem A. 2013, 1 (11), 3789 - 3796 ( DOI: 10.1039/c3ta01616a)

7. Rodrigues, D.F.; Jaisi, D.; Elimelech, M., Toxicity of Functionalized Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes on Soil Microbial Communities: Implications for Nutrient Cycling in Soil. Environmental Science & Technology. 2013 Jan 2;47(1):625-33 (DOI:

8. Pangilinan, K.D.; Santos, C.M.; Estillore, N.C.; Rodrigues, D.F.; Advincula, R.C. Temperature-Responsiveness and Antimicrobial Properties of CNT–PNIPAM Hybrid Brush Films. Macromol. Chem.Physic.2012 (DOI: 10.1002/macp.201200464)

9. Santos, C.M.; Mangadlao, J.; Leon, A.; Ahmed, F.; Advincula, R.C.; Rodrigues, D.F.. Graphene nanocomposites for biomedical applications: Fabrication, Characterization, Antimicrobial and Cytotoxic investigations Nanotechnology 2012 Oct 5;23(39):395101.

10. Mejías, C. I. E.; Santos, C.; Wei, X.; Rodrigues, D.F., Toxicity of a polymer-graphene oxide composite against bacterial planktonic cells, biofilms, and mammalian cells. Nanoscale  2012. v.4, p.4746-4756.

11. Ahmed, F.; Santos, C. M.; Vergara, R. A. M. V.; Tria, M. C. R.; Advincula, R. C.; Rodrigues, D. F., Antimicrobial applications of electroactive PVK-SWNT nanocomposites. Environmental Science & Technology 2012. v.46, p. 1804-1810.

12. Santos, C. M.; Milagros Cui, K.; Ahmed, F.; Tria, M. C. R.; Vergara, R. A. M. V.; Leon, A. C.; Advincula, R. C.; Rodrigues, D. F., Bactericidal and Anticorrosion Properties in PVK/MWNT Nanocomposite Coatings on Stainless Steel. Macromolecular Materials and Engineering 2012. v. 297, 807-813.

13. Santos, C. M.; Tria, M. C. R.; Vergara, R. A. M. V.; Ahmed, F.; Advincula, R. C.; Rodrigues, D. F., Antimicrobial graphene polymer (PVK-GO) nanocomposite films. Chemical Communications,2011. 47 (31), 8892 – 8894.

14. Rodrigues, D.F., Biofilters: A Solution for Heavy Metals Removal from Water. J Bioremed Biodegrad 2011, 2, e101.

15. Vishnivetskaya, T. A.; Lucas, S.; Copeland, A.; Lapidus, A.; del Rio, T. G.; Dalin, E.; Tice, H.; Bruce, D. C.; Goodwin, L. A.; Pitluck, S., Saunders E, Brettin T, Detter C, Han C, Larimer F, Land ML, Hauser LJ, Kyrpides NC, Ovchinnikova G, Kathariou S, Ramaley RF, Rodrigues DF, Hendrix C, Richardson P, Tiedje JM. Complete genome sequence of the thermophilic bacterium Exiguobacterium sp. AT1b. Journal of bacteriology 2011, 193, (11), 2880-2881.

16. Pernites, R. B.; Santos, C. M.; Maldonado, M.; Ponnapati, R. R.; Rodrigues, D. F.; Advincula, R. C., Tunable Protein and Bacterial Cell Adsorption on Colloidally Templated Superhydrophobic Polythiophene Films. Chemistry of Materials 2011. (in press DOI: 10.1021/cm2007044).

17. Rodrigues, D. F.; Elimelech, M., Toxic effects of single-walled carbon nanotubes in the development of E. coli biofilm. Environmental Science & Technology 2010, 44, (12), 4583-4589.

18. Ayala-del-Río, H. L.; Chain, P. S.; Grzymski, J. J.; Ponder, M. A.; Ivanova, N.; Bergholz, P. W.; Di Bartolo, G.; Hauser, L.; Land, M.; Bakermans, C.; Rodrigues, D.F.; Klappenback, J.; Zarka, D.; Larimer, F.; Richardson, P.; Murray, A.; Thomashow, M.; Tiedje, J.M. The genome sequence of Psychrobacter arcticus 273-4, a psychroactive Siberian permafrost bacterium, reveals mechanisms for adaptation to low-temperature growth. Applied and environmental microbiology 2010, 76, (7), 2304-2312.

19. Rodrigues, D. F.; Elimelech, M., Role of type 1 fimbriae and mannose in the development of Escherichia coli K12 biofilm: from initial cell adhesion to biofilm formation. Biofouling 2009, 25, (5), 401-411.

20. Rodrigues, D. F.; da C Jesus, E.; Ayala-del-Río, H. L.; Pellizari, V. H.; Gilichinsky, D.; Sepulveda-Torres, L.; Tiedje, J. M., Biogeography of two cold-adapted genera: Psychrobacter and Exiguobacterium. The ISME journal 2009, 3, (6), 658-665.

21. Rodrigues, D.F.; Sakata, S.; Comasseto, J.; Bícego, M.; Pellizari, V., Diversity of hydrocarbon‐degrading Klebsiella strains isolated from hydrocarbon‐contaminated estuaries. Journal of applied microbiology 2009, 106, (4), 1304-1314.

22. Rodrigues, D. F.; Tiedje, J. M., Coping with our cold planet. Applied and environmental microbiology 2008, 74, (6), 1677-1686.

23. Rodrigues, D.F.; Ivanova, N.; He, Z.; Huebner, M.; Zhou, J.; Tiedje, J., Architecture of thermal adaptation in an Exiguobacterium sibiricum strain isolated from 3 million year old permafrost: a genome and transcriptome approach. BMC genomics 2008, 9, (1), 547.

24. Kang, S.; Herzberg, M.; Rodrigues, D. F.; Elimelech, M., Antibacterial effects of carbon nanotubes: size does matter! Langmuir 2008, 24, (13), 6409-6413.

25. Rodrigues, D. F.; Tiedje, J. M., Multi‐locus real‐time PCR for quantitation of bacteria in the environment reveals Exiguobacterium to be prevalent in permafrost. FEMS microbiology ecology 2007, 59, (2), 489-499.

26. Rodrigues, D. F.; Goris, J.; Vishnivetskaya, T.; Gilichinsky, D.; Thomashow, M. F.; Tiedje, J. M., Characterization of Exiguobacterium isolates from the Siberian permafrost. Description of Exiguobacterium sibiricum sp. nov. Extremophiles 2006, 10, (4), 285-294.

27. Andrade, L. H.; Comasseto, J. V.; Rodrigues, D. F.; Pellizari, V. H.; Porto, A. L. M., Enantioselective reduction of ortho-substituted-acetophenones by bacterial strains isolated from medium enriched with biphenyl or diesel fuel. Journal of Molecular Catalysis B: Enzymatic 2005, 33, (3), 73-79.

28. Sakata, S. K.; Taniguchi, S.; Rodrigues, D. F.; Urano, M. E.; Wandermüren, M. N.; Pellizari, V. H.; Comasseto, J. V., Development of a static headspace gas chromatographic/mass spectrometric method to analyze the level of volatile contaminants biodegradation. Journal of Chromatography A 2004, 1048, (1), 67-71.


  • Rodrigues, D.F.; Advincula, R.; Claydon, F.; Santos, C.; Tria, M.C. “Nanocomposite PVK-graphene based nanomaterial filters for the simultaneous removal of bacteria and heavy metal”. Application number: 61533342 (provisional patent filed on 12-SEP-2011)


  • Bakermans, C., P. W. Bergholz, D. F. Rodrigues, T. A. Vishnivetskaya, H. L. Ayala-del-Rio, and J. M. Tiedje. 2012. Genomic and expression analyses of cold-adapted microorganisms. In L. G. Whyte and B. Miller (ed.),  Polar Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC.
  • Santos, C.M.; Tria, M.C.R.; Foster, E.; Advincula, R.C.; Rodrigues, D.F. Carbon-based polymer nanocomposites: From preparation to antimicrobial applications. In: Munoz-Bonilla, A.; Cerrada, M.L.; Fernandez-Garcia M., 2014, Polymeric Materials with antimicrobial activity: From synthesis to applications. Published by the Royal Society of Chemistry. ISBN: 9781849738071


Research with Graphene oxide and wastewater is featured in this website: