Spain, Jim

Dr. Jim Spain


Jim Spain received his PhD in microbiology from The University of Texas at Austin.  He worked on fate and transport of marine pollutants including pesticides and petroleum for five years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Marine Environmental Research Laboratory in Gulf Breeze, Florida before joining the Air Force Research Laboratory in 1985.  As head of Biotechnology Research he directed a program to discover and develop strategies for biodegradation of industrial and military chemicals including fuels, solvents and explosives. Research at the Air Force also included the exploration of biocatalysts for transformation and synthesis of materials. From 2005 to 2016 he was a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology where he studied biodegradation of soil and groundwater pollutants. He is currently Emeritus Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Research Professor at the University of West Florida. He is a former editor of Applied and Environmental Microbiology and has published extensively on biodegradation and biotransformation of synthetic organic compounds in the environment.

Degrees & Institutions:

Ph.D. Microbiology/Biochemistry, University of TX, Austin, 1979
B.S. Biology and Chemistry, University of TX, Arlington, 1973


Professor Spain studies environmental biotechnology related to marine, freshwater and subsurface ecosystems to enable elimination of environmental pollution. The emphasis is on discovery and characterization of bacteria that degrade environmentally relevant chemicals. He uses a broad range of techniques from microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, microbial ecology, and bioinformatics to reveal the biodegradation mechanisms of organic compounds along with the ecology and evolution of the bacteria that catalyze the processes. Recent work has resulted in the discovery of novel enzymes that expand the understanding of metabolic diversity and capabilities of microorganisms that degrade nitroaromatic chemicals. Basic research in the laboratory leads to the discovery of new biodegradation mechanisms and the bacteria that catalyze the destruction of pollutants. Practical applications involve field work to support bioremediation of contaminated sites and screening for new bacteria. Current projects are funded by DuPont (Corteva), Chemours and the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program.


    Of 170- see Google Scholar 

    Palatucci, M.L., L.A. Waidner, E.E. Mack, and J.C Spain. 2019. Aerobic biodegradation of 2,3- and 3,4-dichloronitrobenzene. J. Haz. Mat. 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2019.05.110.

    Yu, R., Z. Kurt, F. He, and J.C. Spain. 2018. Biodegradation of the allelopathic chemical pterostilbene by a Sphingobium sp. strain from the peanut rhizosphere. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. DOI: 10.1128/AEM.02154-18

    Zhao, H., Y. Xu, S. Lin, J.C. Spain, N-Y. Zhou. 2018. The molecular basis for the NIH shift in carboxyl group migration. Molecular Microbiology. 110:411-424.

    Kurt, Z., M. Minoia, and J.C. Spain. 2018. Resveratrol as a growth substrate for bacteria from the rhizosphere. Environ. Microbiol. 84:  doi:10.1128/AEM.00104-18.

    Mundle, S.O.C, J.C. Spain, G.L. Lacrampe-Couloume, S.F. Nishino, and B.S. Lollar. 2017. Branched pathways in the degradation of cDCE by cytochrome P450 in Polaromonas sp. JS666. Sci. Tot. Environ. 15:99-105.

    Konstantinidis, K., Y. Wang, J. Hatt, D. Tsementzi, L. Rodriguez, C. Ruiz-Perez, M. Weigand, H. Kizer, G. Maresca, R. Krishnan, R. Poretsky, and J. C. Spain. 2017. Quantifying the importance of the rare biosphere for microbial community response to organic pollutants in a freshwater ecosystem. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 83 (8) e03321-16.

    Kurt. Z., E.E. Mack and J.C. Spain. 2016. Natural attenuation of non-volatile contaminants in the capillary fringe. Environ. Sci. Technol.  50:10172–10178.

    Karthikeyan, S. and JC Spain. 2016. Biodegradation of 2,4-dinitroanisole (DNAN) by Nocardioides sp. JS1661 in water, soil and bioreactors. J. Haz. Materials 312:37-44.

    Fida, T.T., S. Palamuru, G. Pandey, and J.C. Spain. 2014. Aerobic biodegradation of 2,4-dinitroanisole (DNAN) by Nocardioides sp. JS1661. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 80:7725-31.

    Oh, S.,Z. Kurt, D. Tsementzi, M. Weigand, M. Kim, J. Hatt, M. Tandukar, S. Pavlostathis, J.C. Spain, and K. Konstantinidis. 2014. Microbial community degradation of widely used quaternary ammonium disinfectants. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 80:5892-5900.



Keywords: environmental biotechnology, marine, freshwater, subsurface ecosystems, environmental pollution, characterization of bacteria, microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, microbial ecology, and bioinformatics, biodegradation mechanisms, organic compounds, ecology and evolution of the bacteria, novel enzymes, metabolic diversity, capabilities of microorganisms, nitroaromatic chemicals