Jennifer DeBruyn is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville Tennessee. Her primary research area is the microbial ecology of decomposition and biodegradation. She received her Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree in Biology from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. As an undergraduate, she first became interested in microbial ecology and did her Honours thesis research on how phosphorus shapes microbial communities in Lake Erie. She earned her Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Tennessee, where she worked under Dr. Gary Sayler in the Center for Environmental Biotechnology. Her dissertation research focused on microbial biodegradation of organic pollutants in sediments. Her postdoctoral research in Soil Science focused on the influence of land management on soil microbial communities. Throughout her academic career, Dr. DeBruyn has employed molecular biology and bioinformatic approaches to better understand microbial communities and their important functions in a variety of environments.
For the last few years, she has actively studied the microbial communities involved with decomposition of vertebrate mortalities (humans and animals). She has published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences and PLoS One and this work has been featured in the popular press (Science News and Forensic Magazine). She has been invited to speak for various groups, including academic institutions (University of Alabama, University of North Texas, University of Tennessee Knoxville), industry groups (Restoration Industry Association, Tennessee Onsite Wastewater Association), and public sector (law enforcement and forensic investigators).