Ryan Ziels

Ryan Ziels

Assistant Professor

Department of Civil Engineering

What is your educational and professional background?

I received my BSc in environmental resources engineering from Humboldt State University (California). I received my master’s and PhD in civil and environmental engineering from the University of Washington (Seattle). During my PhD, I spent over a year abroad, conducting research at the Biogas Research Center in Sweden, as well as the Laboratory of Microbiology at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Why engineering?

I was always drawn towards developing solutions to the multi-faceted environmental problems facing our society. As an undergraduate student at Humboldt State, I took an intro to environmental engineering course, and knew immediately that I had found my calling.

Why UBC?

UBC has an international reputation for leading research on environmental stewardship and sustainability. Plus, I grew up in the Pacific Northwest (Bellingham, WA), and I think this is the best place to live — hands down.

What are your research interests and current projects?

My research intersects environmental engineering with microbiology. I focus on utilizing natural communities of microbes to degrade and convert pollutants into useful forms, which we can then recover as renewable resources. For instance, I am interested in microbial biotechnologies that produce renewable fuel as methane gas from waste products, as well as technologies to remove and recover nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater.

How do you hope your work will impact society/students?

I hope that my research will help to shape future wastewater treatment facilities into “resource recovery facilities” by exploiting nature’s bounty of the microbial world. I am fascinated by the unexplored micro-cosmos (microbial world) and its potential to shape our future technological landscape, and I hope that students will find excitement in exploring this potential as well.

How do you think the field of engineering will be different 100 years from now?

I think that the field of engineering in 100 years will be very multi-disciplinary, as scientists from a variety of fields will converge to solve (growingly) complex problems.

What are you passionate about outside work?

I enjoy snowboarding in the nearby mountains in the winter time, as well as surfing the frigid waters of Vancouver Island.

Department/School profile