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Department of Marine Biotechnology

The newly created Department of Marine Biotechnology (DMB) at UMBC combines internationally acclaimed research with education, training and economic development. DMB faculty members work in the areas of sustainable marine aquaculture, marine microbial biodiversity and biotechnology, bioremediation, pathobiology and vaccine development, and marine bioenergy.

The department is based at the Columbus Center in downtown Baltimore. Faculty have access to extensive research facilities, including an 18,000 square-foot, fully-contained, recirculating marine aquaculture facility, a versatile high-volume fermentation facility, and a wide assortment of advanced molecular and biotechnology instrumentation.

Areas of Expertise

  • DMB’s sustainable marine aquaculture/fisheries program has produced an array of patented technologies in biosecure and environmentally responsible seafood production. Researchers have developed a closed aquaculture system with zero pollution discharge that relies on microbial processes found in the natural environment for filtration. Solid waste is biologically converted to methane, providing a renewable energy source for on-site use.
  • Translational research and technologies in the critically important areas of reproductive therapies, hatchery technologies, compound delivery, and vaccine development also support the development of state-of-the-art aquaculture, as well as healthy and sustainable ecosystems.
  • The department has expertise in algal physiology and culture, and micro-algae are studied as a source of biofuels and CO2 sequestration.
  • DMB's bioremediation program has identified microorganisms responsible for the reductive dehalogenation of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and researchers are developing patented “green” approaches for treating contaminated sites as an alternative to disruptive practices such as dredging. 
  • The biology of extremophiles and exobiology includes research on the adaptive mechanisms developed by microbes to survive extraterrestrial climates such as Mars.   

Academic Programs

DMB faculty members provide training in basic and applied aspects of marine biotechnology at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  Students from programs at UMBC and other University System of Maryland campuses, including the Marine Environmental and Estuarine Science, Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Biological Sciences programs, participate in short-term independent projects or long-term research projects that lead to graduate degrees.

Department Faculty

  • Dr. Yonathan Zohar (Chair): Fish Reproductive Endocrinology, Marine Aquaculture, (410) 234-8803, (410) 234-8824
  • Dr. Robert Belas: Microbial Genetics, (410) 234-8876
  • Dr. Keiko Saito: Aquatic Microbiology and Ecology, Marine Aquaculture, (410) 234-8820
  • Dr. Harold Schreier: Microbial Molecular Genetics and Physiology, (410) 234-8874
  • Dr. Kevin Sowers: Anaerobic Microbiology, (410) 234-8878
  • Dr. Vikram Vakharia: Viral Genetics, Vaccine Development, (410) 234-8880

A new DMB website is being constructed. For additional information, please visit:

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