Energy Biotechnologies


Researchers in ERI are developing microbially induced calcite precipitation for sealing leaky wellbores, suppressing coal ash dust, and sealing fly ash ponds to prevent leaching. Fundamental work to improve biofuel production from algae and fungi is being pursued as is use of biofilms for wastewater treatment.  Additionally, methods to stimulate microbial conversion of coal to methane in situ are being developed. 


Al Cunningham

Al Cunningham


Dr. Cunningham is responsible for strategic planning and project management for Energy Research Institute (ERI) projects involving Biomineralization for CO2 storage security, well bore integrity, and fly ash stabilization. Dr. Cunningham can be reached at 406-994-6109 or at Website:

Matthew W. Fields

Matthew Fields


Dr. Matthew Fields is the director of the Center for Biofilm Engineering and professor in Microbiology and Immunology. In the area of biofuels, we study eukaryotic photoautotrophs in terms of the accumulation of biomass and lipids as well as the recycling of water and nutrients. In the area of subsurface hydrocarbons, we study the biogenic conversion of coal to natural gas. Dr. Fields can be reached at (406) 994-7340 or Website:

Robin Gerlach

Robin Gerlach


Dr. Robin Gerlach is a professor in Center for Biofilm Engineering (CBE), Energy Research Institute (ERI), Thermal Biology Institute (TBI) and the Montana Institute on Ecosystems (IoE) at MSU. Dr. Gerlach's research focuses on the development of microbial biofilm technologies for beneficial purposes, including microbially enhanced carbon sequestration at geologic CO2 injection sites, microbially enhanced coal bed methane production, and phototrophic biotechnology including algal biofuels. Dr. Gerlach can be reached at 406-994-1840 or at Website:

Ellen Lauchnor

Ellen Lauchner

  • Biofilms in wastewater treatment and biological nitrogen removal
  • Impact of emerging contaminants on wastewater treatment processes
  • Fundamentals and applications of microbially induced mineral formation
  • Reactive transport in biofilm systems
Chaofu Lu

Chaofu Lu

Seed oils (primarily triacylglycerols, TAG) are an important source of human food, and are increasingly used in biofuels and biomaterials. While oils from major crops such as soybean and canola, and the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana contain predominantly 18-carbon unsaturated fatty acids, there are more than 300 additional modified fatty acids found in different plant TAG. Many of these unusual fatty acids have high-value properties that are important in a range of industrial applications. My research goal is to understand genetic and biochemical factors that determine this diversity in oilseed plants.
Brent M. Peyton

Brent Peyton


Dr. Brent Peyton is a Professor on the faculty of the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department, is the Director of the Thermal Biology Institute at Montana State University (MSU), and on the Executive Board of the NSF Center for Biofilm Engineering. With 27 years of experience with biological systems, his research is focused on characterizing microorganisms and microbial processes to solve problems in natural and engineered systems, including development of biofuels and bioremediation systems. Dr. Peyton has authored and co-authored 108 peer-reviewed publications and holds five patents in applications of environmental biotechnology. Dr. Peyton can be reached at at (406) 994-7419 or Website:

Adrienne (Adie) Phillips

Adrienne Phillips


Dr. Adrienne Phillips is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering in the Civil Engineering Department at MSU. She is also a faculty associate of MSU’s Center for Biofilm Engineering and the Energy Research Institute. Dr. Phillips’ research focuses on the use of biofilm-based technologies for the improvement of deep subsurface wellbore integrity. Dr. Phillips can be reached at 406-994-2119 or Website: