Yanna Liang

Yanna Liang

Fundamental and applied research and development on environmental and energy sustainability

The World Within Reach
Yanna Liang
Chair and Professor

College of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Department: Environmental and Sustainable Engineering

UAB 234



Throughout my career, I have grown to be passionate about sustainability. This is such an important and serious term and concept, and I believe that every scientific field and every corner of our society should apply the principle of sustainable development. No matter if it is environment, energy, and economy, we must consider our future generations and not just our own needs. This passion has been a driving force for my research over the years. At this new position, I wish to contribute to the training, educating and equipping of the next generation of scientists and engineers to be critical thinkers, problem solvers, lifelong learners and life changers. The sustainable principles they will learn here will guide their decision-making and help them to be responsible citizens. After all, we have only one earth, one home, at least for now. Thus, now is the time for us to treasure our beautiful environment. 


 Suzhou University of
   Science and Technology    
 Environmental Engineering  B.E.  07/1992
 Utah State University  Environmental Engineering  M.S.  05/2003
 Utah State University  Environmental Engineering  Ph.D.  05/2006
 Utah State University  Bioenvironmental Engineering       Postdoc     06-12/2006

Research Interests

My research interests are tied strongly to sustainable environment and energy. Besides working on conventional environmental research topics, such as remediation of organic and inorganic contaminants, water and wastewater treatment, I am passionate about research and development on renewable energy. In addition, to be proactive on protecting our environment, I am interested in understanding the fate and transport of emerging contaminants in different environmental matrices. Specifically, my research interests are:  

  1. Microbial ecology in engineered and natural systems.

  2. Fate and transport of engineered nanoparticles in aqueous and soil environments.

  3. Microbial electrochemical cells for CO2 reduction.

  4. Biochemical conversion of lignocellulosic feedstocks to biofuels: pretreatment, hydrolysis and  fermentation.

  5. Themochemical conversion of renewable feedstocks to biofuels and bioproducts.

  6. Proper utilization of industrial and agricultural wastes or by-products for producing value-added commodities through holistic approaches.

  7. Water reuse and wastewater treatment.

  8. Bioremediation and biodegradation of organic contaminants in subsurface and groundwater.

Additional Information

Dr. Yanna Liang received her BE degree in Environmental Engineering from Suzhou University of Science and Technology, Jiangsu, China in 1992 and MS and Ph.D. degrees in the same area from Utah State University in 2003 and 2006, respectively. Before Dr. Liang started her academic career in 2007 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), she worked for the Environmental Protection Agency in China and the United States for more than eight years. Since starting at SIUC, she has secured more than $1.68 million external research funding from Federal and state agencies, industry and foundation and participated in over $4.63 million projects funded by NSF. She has published more than 53 peer-reviewed journal papers and invited book chapters and presented her research through more than 75 conference presentations. As a result of her multidisciplinary work, Dr. Liang has been a regular panelist for NSF, DOE, DoED, NIH, EPA, DOD, USDA and a frequent reviewer for more than 40 scientific journals. In addition, Dr. Liang is a registered professional engineer, an adjunct professor at Suzhou University of Science and Technology, an ASCE ExCEED Teaching Fellow, and has won various awards from ASCE, AWRA, and AWMA. 


Selected Peer-reviewed Journal Publications
(*: Graduate student; **: Undergraduate student, IF: Impact factor)

Park, S., Liang, Y.-N. 2017. Bioleaching of trace elements and rare earth elements from fly ash. International Journal of Coal Geology. Under review.

Bi, Z., Zhang, J., Park, S., Harpalani, S., Liang, Y.-N. 2017. A formation water-based nutrient recipe for maximizing methane release from coal in the San Juan Basin. Fuel. In revision.

Zhang, R., Liu, S-M., Bahadur, J., Elsworth, D., Wang, Y., Hu, G., Liang, Y.-N. 2017. Changes in pore structure of coal caused by coal-to-gas bioconversion. Scientific Reports. In press.

Asli, AE., Hafidi, M., Liang, Y.-N., Elfels, L., Mesbahi, N., Oubakalla R. 2017. Domestic Wastewater Treatment and Lipid Production by an Isolated Heterotrophic Microalgae from an Arid Climate Zone. Biotechnology and Bioprocess Engineering. Under review.

Bi, Z., Zhang, J., Zhu. Z., Liang, Y.-N., Wiltowski T. 2017. Generating biocrude from partially defatted Cryptococcus curvatus yeast residues through catalytic hydrothermal liquefaction. Applied Energy. In revision.

Londono, N., Donovan, A., Shi, H., Geisler M., Liang, Y.-N. 2017. Impact of TiO2 and ZnO nanoparticles on an aquatic microbial community: effect at environmentally relevant concentrations. Nanotoxicology. In revision.

Zhang, J., Liang, Y.-N. 2017. Evaluating approaches for sustaining methane production from coal through biogasification. Fuel. 202: 233–240.

Xia, C., Kumar, A., Chen, X., Tucker, M., Liang, Y.-N. 2017. Conversion of corn stover hydrolysates to value-added products: comparison between Clostridium carboxidivorans P7 and two microbial communities. Biomass Conversion and Biorefinery. In press.

Abdul, S., Zhang, J., Chen, D., Chen, X., Tucker, M., Liang, Y.-N. 2017. Sweet sorghum bagasse and corn stover serving as substrates for producing sophorolipids. Journal of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology. 44: 353–362.

Bi, Z., Zhang*, J., Peterson, E**., Zhu, Z*., Xia, C., Liang, Y.-N., Wiltowski, T. 2017. Biocrude from pretreated sorghum bagasse through catalytic hydrothermal liquefaction. Fuel. 188:112-120. IF: 4.14.

Xia C., Wiltowski, T., Harpalani, S., Liang, Y.-N. 2016. Coal depolymerization using permanganate under optimal conditions. International Journal of Coal Geology. 168: 214–221 IF: 4.20.

Zhang, J*., Liang, Y.-N. Harpalani, S. 2016. Optimization of methane production from bituminous coal through biogasification. Applied Energy, 183:31–42. IF: 6.33.

Qin Y.H, Zhao, Z.B., Wiltowski, T., Aloqaili, M., Liang, Y.-N. 2016. Investigation of co-gasification reactivity of torrefied Jatropha seed cake with Illinois #6 coal char. BioResources. 11: 7624-7636.

Pandey R*; Harpalani, S., Feng, R*., Zhang, J*., Liang, Y.-N. 2016. Changes in gas storage and transport properties of coal as a result of enhanced microbial methane generation. Fuel, 179. 114–123. IF: 4.14.

Zhang, J.*, Park, S., Liang, Y.-N., Harpalani, S. 2016. Finding cost-effective nutrient solutions and evaluating environmental conditions for biogasifying bituminous coal to methane ex situ. Applied Energy. 165:559–568. IF: 6.33.

Park, S., Liang, Y.-N. 2016. Biogenic methane production from coal: A review on recent research and development on microbially enhanced coalbed methane (MECBM). Fuel. 166. 258–267. IF: 4.14. 

A complete list of Dr. Liang's publications can be found here.

Awards and Honors

  • 12015 Faculty Mentor of Excellence, Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, SIUC

  • 2014 Faculty mentor for Kim Jarosz, First place (Physical Science/Engineering), SIUC Undergraduate Research Forum

  • 2013 McNair Outstanding Mentor, SIUC

  • 2009 ASCE ExCEED Teaching Fellow

  • 2009 SIUC Research, Scholarly and Creative Activity Awards

  • 2006 AWRA-Utah section graduate student paper contest, first place

  • 2005 EWRI graduate student technical paper contest, second place

  • 2004-2006 Inland Northwest Research Alliance (INRA) fellow

  • 2004 Air & Waste Management Association (AWMA) Scholarship