Max Häggblom


Research Interests:

Environmental and applied microbiology, biodegradation and bioremediation

Research in our laboratory focuses on the biodegradation of environmental pollutants, especially halogenated aromatic compounds. Our specific interests are in understanding (a) how microbes degrade toxic chemicals, such as halogenated aromatic compounds, and (b) how microbial communities can be stimulated to degrade soil, groundwater and sediment contaminants. Our laboratory is examining the diversity of aerobic and anaerobic processes in the degradation and transformation of environmental pollutants, including chlorinated and brominated aromatic compounds, chlorinated pesticides, PCBs and PAHs. Our research is seeking novel bioremediation strategies for degradation of these compounds in soils and sediments. Our long term research objectives involve examining the diverse catabolic activities of microbes and how biotransformation and biodegradation affect the fate of anthropogenic contaminants. A central objective in these studies is the physiological characterization of the microorganisms involved in contaminant degradation and transformation and the identification of degradation mechanisms and pathways. The work in our laboratory is currently focusing on identification of degradation mechanisms of halogenated aromatic compounds under different redox conditions, including a biochemical and molecular characterization of the degradation pathways. In addition, we are also examining the population structure and dynamics of anaerobic dehalogenating communities. Another area of interest is the characterization of rhizospheric bacteria involved in biodegradation of organic contaminants and developing their use in bioremediation. We are also exploring aspects of microbe-oligochaete interactions in biodegradation of organic contaminants. The aims of these research projects are to provide a basic understanding of the environmental fate of anthropogenic pollutants as well as to serve as a base for developing novel bioremediation or biocatalytic processes.

Selected Publications:

Liu J, Lopez N, Ahn Y, Goldberg T, Bromberg Y, Kerkhof LJ, Häggblom MM. (2017) Novel reductive dehalogenases from the marine sponge associated bacterium Desulfoluna spongiiphila. Environmental Microbiology Reports. DOI:10.1111/1758-2229.12556
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Liu T, Ahn H, Sun W, McGuinness LR, Kerkhof LJ, Häggblom MM. (2016) Identification of a Ruminococcaceae species as the methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) degrading bacterium in a methanogenic consortium. Environ. Sci. Technol. 50:1455–1464. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b04731
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Nikrad MP, Kerkhof LJ, Häggblom MM. (2016) The subzero microbiome: Microbial activity in frozen and thawing soils. FEMS Microbiol. Ecol. 92:fiw081. DOI: 10.1093/femsec/fiw081
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Liu H, Park J-W, Häggblom MM. (2014) Enriching for microbial reductive dechlorination of chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans. Environ. Pollution 184:222-230. DOI:10.1016/j.envpol.2013.08.019
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Tuorto SJ, Darias P, McGuinness LR, Panikov N, Zhang T, Häggblom MM, Kerkhof LJ. (2014) Bacterial genome replication at subzero temperatures in permafrost. ISME Journal 8:139-149. DOI:10.1038/ismej.2013.140
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Rauschenbach I, Posternak V, Cantarella P, McConnell J, Starovoytov V, Häggblom MM. (2013) Seleniivibrio woodruffii gen. nov., sp. nov., a selenate and arsenate respiring bacterium in the Deferribacteraceae. Int. J. System. Evol. Microbiol. 63:3659–3665. DOI:10.1099/ijs.0.043547-0
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Rawat S, Männistö MK, Bromberg Y, Häggblom MM. (2012) Comparative genomic and physiological analysis provides insights into the role of Acidobacteria in organic carbon utilization in Arctic tundra soils. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 82:341-355. DOI:10.1111/j.1574-6941.2012.01381.x6
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1985 B.S., Life Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
1986 M.S., General Microbiology, University of Helsinki
1987 Licentiate of Philosophy, General Microbiology, University of Helsinki.
1989 Ph.D., General Microbiology, University of Helsinki.


1985-1992 Instructor, Department of General Microbiology, University of Helsinki, Finland (on leave of absence 9/1988-12/1992)
1987-1988 Young Scientist Fellow, Department of General Microbiology, University of Helsinki.
1988-1991 Assistant Research Scientist, Department of Microbiology, New York University Medical Center, NY.
1991-1993 Research Assistant Professor, Institute of Environmental Medicine, New York University Medical Center, NY.
1993-1997 Assistant Research Professor; 1997-1998, Associate Research Professor, Biotechnology Center for Agriculture and the Environment, Rutgers University, New Brunswick NJ.
1993-2010 Member, Biotechnology Center for Agriculture and the Environment.
1998-1999 Assistant Professor
1999-2003 Associate Professor
2003-2011 Professor
2011-pres. Distinguished Professor, Dept. of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Rutgers University.
2003-2008 Director, Undergraduate Program in Microbiology.
2008-pres. Chair, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology.
2009-2011 Director, Graduate Program in Microbial Biology.
2009-pres. Member, Rutgers Energy Institute.
2012-pres. Member, Institute of Marine and Costal Sciences.


1991-pres. Docent (Applied Microbiology), University of Helsinki, Finland.
1993-1996 Adjunct Assistant Professor, Institute of Environmental Medicine, NYU Medical Center.
1995-2006 Member, Editorial Board, Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
1996-pres. Docent (Environmental Microbiology), University of Jyväskylä, Finland.
1998-2003 Member, Editorial Board, FEMS Microbiology Ecology.
2000-2001 Visiting Professor, Dept. of Applied Chemistry and Microbiology, University of Helsinki, Finland (sabbatical appointment).
2004-pres. Visiting Scientist, Finnish Forest Research Institute - Rovaniemi Research Station, Finland.
2010-pres. Visiting Professor, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute for Urban Environment, Xiamen, China.
2003-2010 Editor, FEMS Microbiology Ecology.
2011-pres. Chief Editor, FEMS Microbiology Ecology.


  • Young Scientist’s Fellowship, University of Helsinki, 1987-1988.
  • Rutgers University Board of Trustees Research Fellowship for Scholarly Excellence, 1999.
  • Cook College / New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station Sustained Research Excellence Award, 2003.
  • American Society for Microbiology US-Indo Professorship, 2009.
  • Waksman Honorary Lectureship Award, Theobald Smith Society, American Society for Microbiology New Jersey Branch, 2010.
  • Visiting Professorship for Senior International Scientists of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2010.
  • Elected Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology, 2011.
  • Waksman Outstanding Teaching Award, Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, 2014.


Environmental Microbiology and Microbial Ecology: linking ecosystem functions with microbial (bacterial) diversity;  microbial bioprospecting - isolation, characterization and taxonomy of novel bacteria; microbial metabolism of toxic and environmental pollutants (biodegradation of halogenated aromatic compounds, biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbons and gasoline additives); bacterial respiration of selenium and arsenic; microbial ecology of Arctic tundra soils.

Environmental Biotechnology: development of bioremediation methods for treatment of contaminated soil, groundwater and sediment.


The ecological role of Acidobacteria in carbon cycling in Arctic tundra soil ecosystems. Academy of Finland, 641,305 Euro, 01/2012-12/2015, PI.

Natural Attenuation and Enhanced Biodegradation of Methyl tert-Butyl Ether in Anoxic Aquifers. NSF CBET, 09/2013-08/2016, $330,000  PI.

Mitigating pesticide pollution in the Mekong delta. VLIR-UOS Flemish Institutional University Cooperation, Euro 99,820 (~$135,000), 4/2010-4/2014, Co-Investigator/Collaborator (10% effort) with PI Vi Thi Guong (Cantho University, Vietnam), D. Springael, R. Merckx (K.U.Leuven).

REU Site: The Biogeography of Biotransformations for Halogenated Organic Compounds, a Comparison of the Tropics, Temperate and Sub-Arctic Environments. NSF, $375,000, 03/01/11 - 02/28/14, Co-PI, (PI: LY Young) NSF EEC 1062477.



11:680:494 | Applied Microbiology