Wastewater, Solid wastes, Bioenergy/Bioproducts

Job Type
Job Rank
Three Graduate Research Assistantships
Job Institution
Virginia Tech
Job Description

RE: Three Graduate Research Assistantships in Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech


The Department of Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, also known as Virginia Tech, is seeking applications for at least three Ph.D. (and/or MS) Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA). The assistantship will cover stipends, tuition waiver, and insurance. The successful candidate will work in Dr. Zhiwu (Drew) Wang’s research group (https://www.wang.bse.vt.edu/). The VT-BSE graduate program ranked as the 13th best biological/agricultural engineering program in the U.S. VT's ranking in the 2022 edition of Best Colleges is National Universities is 75th.

The broad research areas include but are not limited to bioprocessing, wastewater treatment, solid waste management, and bioenergy production. Three example projects to be undertaken by the candidates are listed below. There could be many other research projects for selection at the time of onboarding. Details will be discussed during video conference interview if invited. There are also opportunities for candidates to work in VT’s Northern Virginia campus within the Greater Washington metropolitan area.

1.   Characterization of Variability in MSW Streams to Identify Critical Material Attributes for Fuel Production

A PhD or a MS student will be supported by this DOE project to understand the characteristics critical to turning low-cost, abundant municipal solid waste (MSW) into conversion-ready feedstocks for producing biofuels through gasification and solid-state anaerobic digestion (SS-AD) as targeted thermal and biological conversion technologies. Since this is a joint project among seven organizations, the candidate working on this DOE project will have the opportunity to learn collaborative skills between universities, national labs, and industrial partners. Candidates with experience in solid waste management are especially encouraged. 

2.   Biological valorization of hydrothermal liquefaction wastewater with granulated marine Protist

A PhD will be supported by this NSF-funded project to establish a robust biological approach to recover carbon and nutrients from hydrothermal liquefaction wastewater in order to enable sustainable hydrothermal liquefaction for biofuel production. The success of this project would pave a new avenue for purifying toxic wastewater by using marine protists. Candidates with experience in biological wastewater treatment are especially welcomed. 

3. Bioprocess intensification for advanced wastewater treatment

A Ph.D. student will be supported by this industrial project to develop novel bioreactor design and operational strategies to allow high concentration of active biomass to be retained in bioreactors for both high rates of bioreaction and water-biomass separation. The success of this biotechnology would pave a new avenue to cost-effective bioprocessing that can be applied not only for wastewater treatment but also for value-added bioproduct fermentation.


The successful candidate is expected to be creative, self-motivated, possess good research attitude, encompass dynamic problem-solving skills, and have a strong desire to solve real-world problems and collaborate in a multidisciplinary environment with both industrial and academic partners. The candidate is expected to communicate research results through high quality peer-reviewed journal and deliver presentations at national/international professional meetings. Specifically, the successful candidate

  • Must have (or must earn prior to the application deadline) a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in chemical engineering, biological systems engineering, civil engineering, environmental engineering, or a closely related field.
  • Demonstrated excellent scientific writing and communication skills (e.g., peer-reviewed publications, competitions, etc.).
  • For international students, TOEFL score is required. For admission, we expect a minimum TOEFL score of 90 (IBT) or IELTS score of 6.5 for admission. GRE may be waived.
  • Having a U.S. driving license is preferred but not required.


If the program is of your interest, please email Dr. Zhiwu (Drew) Wang at wzw@vt.edu. A full application as a single PDF document package must include (1) A statement of research addressing how your background fit in the position description and candidate qualification described above (1-page limit), (2) an update CV with a full list of publications (if any), (3) all official transcripts, (4) TOEFL or IELTS score(s) (for international candidates), and (4) three reference letters including names, emails, affiliations, and work phone numbers of the referees. The order of the documents in the combined PDF must be followed. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Please include “Graduate Research Assistantship” + “Your Name” as your email subject. Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the positions are filled. Interested candidates should send an enquiry email only once. Best fit potential candidates will receive the responses and video conference interviews will follow.

Successful candidate will need to apply to the Graduate Scholl of Virginia Tech. The deadlines for admissions in Fall 2022 are April 1 (international) and August 1 (domestic), and Spring 2023 are September 1 (international) and January 1 (domestic). Summer admission might be possible. Please visit the website below for more details.



Zhiwu (Drew) Wang, Ph.D., P.E.
Assistant Professor
Department of Biological Systems Engineering, Virginia Tech
Email: wzw@vt.edu