Yongli Wager

Yongli Wager

Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

5050 Anthony Wayne Dr., Detroit, MI 48202
Engineering Building
Room 2168


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Yongli Wager


Dr. Yongli Zhang is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. Her teaching and research interests focus the sustainability of water-energy nexus.

Water and energy are two critical resources inextricable and reciprocally linked: the generation of energy requires large amounts of water, while the treatment and distribution of water are dependent on reliable and low-cost energy. There are significant challenges in providing both clean, affordable water and energy. These challenges include: water and energy resource depletion, high environmental impacts associated with conventional fossil fuels, emerging contaminants in watersheds, etc. Dr. Zhangs research group is interested in tackling these challenges by integrating bioenergy generation and water management for simultaneous production of bio-based energy and water quality improvement in an integrated, strategic manner via a combination of life cycle modeling and targeted laboratory experiments.

Dr. Zhangs specific research areas include:

  • Management of emerging contaminants (microplastics and endocrine disrupting compounds) in natural and engineered water systems;
  • Water treatment and water quality;
  • Environmental sensor technology and monitoring;
  • Renewable bio-energy, especially as pertaining to algal biofuel;
  • Integrated bio-energy generation and wastewater treatment;
  • Evaluating economic and environmental sustainability of emerging technologies by using life cycle assessment (LCA), life cycle costing (LCC), economic analysis, and system-level optmization and modeling.


July 2020: The paper "Nanoplastics impact the zebrafish (Danio rerio) transcriptome: Associated developmental and neurobehavioral consequences" is published in Environmenal Pollution www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0269749120308460
July 2020: Dr. Zhang received Postdoctoral Mentorship Award.
May 2020: Congratulations to Rayyan Mirza for passing his PhD dissertatino prospectus defense.
March 2020: Dr. Zhang’s research group published one research article in the journal of Science of the Total Environment: “Removal efficiency of micro- and nanoplastics (180 nm–125 μm) during drinking water treatment”. For more information, please visit microplastics.wayne.edu/environmentalMonitoring.php
May 2019: Dr. Yongli Zhang received Faculty Research Excellence Award in the College of Engineering at Wayne State University.
Nov 2018: Dr. Zhang gave a link in Detroit's Public Radio Station regarding her team's microplastic research project. Click here to listen
Oct 2018: Dr. Zhang's research team received $929k in funding for science-based mitigation initiative to reduce microplastic pollution in the Great Lakes. To learn more about this project, please visit  microplastics.wayne.edu/index.php
Oct 2018: Congratulations to Allison Diehl to receive the College of Engineering Undergraduate Research Award!
June 2018: Congratulations to Javad Roostaei for his PhD dissertation defense and wish the best for his new journey!
May 2018: Congratulations to Allison Diehl and Ashton Lewandowski for wining the Barber Richard Barber Summer Research Scholarship!
May 2018: Welcome our new PhD student Jonathan Weyhrauch joining in our group!

April 2018: Dr. Yongli Zhang's project, occurence, fate and transport of microplastics in drinking water systems was funded by the Richard Barber Interdisciplinary Research Award.
April 2017: Javad and his team won "Design Day 2nd Place" award in 2017 Student Innovation and Design Competition, with the project entitled "Low-cost and Scalable IoT Sensor Packages for Environmental Monitoring". Congratulations! (Image)
2017: Javad’s poster about CO2 sequestration with wastewater-based algae has been selected for the first place award in the  2017  Graduate and Postdoctoral Research Symposium (webpage



Sichuan University, BEng, Food Engineering

Guangxi University, MSc, Microbiology

University of Virginia, PhD, Civil Engineering

Courses Taught

CE/STE 6270: Environmental Management and Sustainable Development

CE 7280: Applied Environmental Microbiology

CE 5995/7995: Food-Energy-Water (FEW) Nexus and Integrated Resource Recovery

PSC/CE 6910: Waste Pharmaceuticals: Environmental Impact and Management

CE 4210: Intro to Environmental Engineering

BIO 7310: Sustainability of Urban Environmental Systems


Research Projects

A. Currently Funded Research

[3]  The Occurrence and Fate of Microplastics in Wastewater and Drinking Water Treatment Processes (PI), funded by teh Great Lakes Water Authority.

[2] Smart Management of Microplastic Pollution in the Great Lakes (PI), funded by the Great Lakes Protection Fund.

[1] NRT: Transformative Research in Urban Sustainability Training (T-RUST) (Co-I), funded by National Science Foundation.

B. Research in Progress, Not Funded
Algae-Based Sustainable Urban Reclamation Ecosystem (aSURE) _ An Integrated Approach to Sustaining Food-Energy-Water Supply.

C. Previously Funded Research

[14] AI for Earth: A Cloud-based Analytics for Real-time Monitoring of Landfills/Superfund Sites and the Adjacent Watershed (PI), funded by Microsoft.

[13] Independent Risk Analysis for the Straits Pipelines (PI), funded by the State of Michigan.

[12] Stratified Multilayer Algal-biofilm Reclamation Technology (SMART) (PI), funded by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

[11] Advanced Bio-Based Chemicals and Next-Generation Fuels from Montana’s Agricultural Crops (PI), funded by the State of Montana through Montana Research and Economic Development Initiatives, sub-contract through Montana State University Northern.

[10] Flint Area Community Health and Environment Partnership (FACHEP) – PHASE II (Co-I), funded by the State of Michigan.

[9] REU: Summer Academy in Sustainable Manufacturing (Co-I), funded by National Science Foundation

[8] A Workshop for Integrative and Sustainable Food, Energy, and Water in Transitioning Urban Landscapes (Co-PI), funded by National Science Foundation.

[7] The Occurrence of Microplastics in Drinking Water and the Consequential Impact on Human Health (PI), funded by NIEHS Center for Urban Response to Environmental Stressors (CURES).

[6] The Occurrence of Microplastics in Drinking Water Treatment Systems and the Consequential Impact on Ecological and Human Health (PI), funded by Richard Barber Interdisciplinary Research Program.

[5] Algae-based Sustainable Urban Reclamation Ecosystem (aSURE) _ An Integrated Approach to Sustaining Food-Energy-Water Supply (PI), funded by WSU Grant Boost.

[4] Emerging and Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in Detroit Drinking Water (Co-PI), funded by WSU Seed Grant.

[3] Evaluating Removal of Emerging Contaminants by Mixed Algae Culture Integrated with Wastewater Treatment for Sustainable Preservation of Healthy Urban Water Systems (PI), funded by WSU President’s Research Enhancement Program.

[2] Optimization of EDCs Removal in Drinking Water Treatment System (PI), funded by WSU Healthy Urban Waters.

[1] Creating a spatially and temporally life cycle assessment tool: understanding the realistic potential of algae biofuel (PI), funded by WSU University Research Grant.



A. Chapters Published
[2] Harris, C., Miller, C., Lyon, N., Pothukuchi, K., Treemore-Spears, L., Zhang, Y. (equal contribution). “Chapter 18 - Cities in the Nexus”, The Food-Energy-Water Nexus, Edited by Saundry, P. & Ruddell, B (Springer, April 2020). ISBN-13: 978-3030299132; ISBN-10: 3030299139.

[1] Xi, C.W., Bush, K., Lachmayr, K.L., Zhang, Y., and Ford, T.E. “Interactions between environmental microbial ecosystems and humans: the case of the water environment and antibiotic resistance,” Food-Borne Microbes: Shaping the Host Ecosystem, edited by Lee-Ann Jaykus, Hua H. Wang, and Larry S. Schlesinger (ASM Press, April 2009).

B. Journal Articles Published (*Corresponding Author)
Refereed Journals (IF means 5-year impact factor if available, otherwise it means the impact factor in the year when article is published; SJR means SCImago Journal Rank in 2018).

[18] Darabi, M., Majeed, H., Diehl A., Norton, J., *Zhang, Y. “A Review of Microplastics in Sediments: Occurrence, Fate, Transport and Ecological Impact”, Current Pollution Reports (IF 6.0), in review.

[17] Pedersen, A., Petriv, A., Meyer, D., Soto, A., Shields, J., Akemann, C., Baker, B., Tsou, W., Zhang, Y., Baker, T. "Nanoplastics impact the zebrafish (Danio rerio) transcriptome: associated developmental and neurobehavioral consequences", Environmental Pollution (IF 6.2), in press.

[16] *Zhang, Y., Diehl, A., Lewandowski, A., Gopalakrishnan, K., Baker, T. “Removal Efficiency of Micro- and Nanoplastics During Drinking Water Treatment”, Science of the Total Environment (IF 5.7, 0 citations), 2020.

[15] Melstrom, R., *Reeling, C., Gupta, L., Miller, S., Zhang, Y., Lupi, F. “Economic damages from a worst-case oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac”, Journal of Great Lakes Research (IF 2.5, 0 citations), 2019.

[14] Yurko, G., Roostaei, J., Dittrich, T., Xu, L., Ewing, M., Zhang, Y., *Shreve, G. “Real-Time Sensor Response Characteristics of 3 Commercial Metal Oxide Sensors for Detection of BTEX and Chlorinated Aliphatic Hydrocarbon Organic Vapors”, Chemosensors (SJR 0.63, 2 citations), 2019.

[13] Roostaei, J., *Zhang, Y., Gopalakrishnan, K., Ochocki, A. “Mixotrophic Microalgae Biofilm for Improved Productivity and Cost-efficiency of Algal Biofuel Production,” Nature Scientific Reports (IF 4.5, 11 citations), 2018.

[12] Gopalakrishnan, K., Roostaei, J., *Zhang, Y. “Mixed Culture of Chlorella sp. and Wastewater Wild Algae for Enhanced Biomass and Lipid Accumulation in Wastewater Medium,” Frontier of Environmental Science and Engineering (IF 3.9, 5 citations), 2018.

[11] Roostaei, J., *Zhang, Y. “Spatially explicit life cycle assessment: opportunities and challenges of integrating algae cultivation with wastewater for biofuel production,” Algal Research (IF 4.5, 35 citations), 2017. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.algal.2016.08.008.

[10] Zhang, Y., Liu, X.W., White, M.A., *Colosi, L.M. “Economic evaluation of algae biodiesel based on meta-analyses,” International Journal of Sustainable Energy (SJR 0.43, 11 citations), 2017.

[9] *Treemore-Spears, L., Grove, M., Harris, C., Lemke, L., Miller, C., Pothukuchi, K., Zhang, Y., Zhang, Y. “A workshop on transitioning cities at the food-energy-water nexus,” Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences (SJR 0.6, 6 citations), 2016.

[8] *Colosi, L.M., Resurreccion, E.P., Zhang, Y. “Assessing the energy and environmental performance of algae-mediated tertiary treatment of estrogenic compounds,” Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts (IF 2.6, 6 citations), 2015.

[7] Zhang, Y., Habteselassie, M.Y., Resurreccion, E.P., Mantripragada, V., Peng, S.S., Bauer, S., *Colosi, L.M. “Evaluating removal of steroid estrogens by a model alga as a possible sustainability benefit of hypothetical integrated algae cultivation and wastewater treatment systems,” ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering (IF 7.0, 28 citations), 2 (11), 2014.

[6] Zhang, Y., *Colosi, L.M. “Practical ambiguities during calculation of energy ratios and their impacts on life cycle assessment calculations,” Energy Policy (IF 5.5, 31 citations), 2013.

[5] Zhang, Y., *Colosi, L.M. “What are we missing by focusing on algae biodiesel?” Biofuels (SJR 0.43, 2 citations), 2013 (Invited Editorial).

[4] Zhang, Y., White, M.A., *Colosi, L.M. “Environmental and economic assessment of integrated systems for dairy manure treatment coupled with algae bioenergy production,” Bioresource Technology (IF 6.7, 60 citations), 2013.

[3] *Colosi, L.M., Zhang, Y., Clarens, A.F., White, M.A. “Will algae produce green? Using published life cycle assessments as a starting point for economic evaluation of future algae-to-energy systems,” Biofuels (SJR 0.43, 15 citations), 2012.

[2] Zhang, Y., Marrs, C.F., Simon, C., *Xi, C.W. “Wastewater treatment contributes to selective increase of antibiotic resistance among Acinetobacter spp.,” Science of the Total Environment (IF 5.7, 283 citations), 2009.

[1] *Xi, C.W., Zhang, Y., Marrs, C.F., Ye, W., Simon, C., Foxman, B., and Niragu, J. “Prevalence of antibiotic resistance in drinking water treatment and distribution systems,” Applied and Environmental Microbiology (IF 4.1, 368 citations), 2009.

Professional Affiliations

• American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
• Association of Environmental Engineering & Science Professor (AEESP)


Awards and Honors

• Postdoctoral Mentorship Award, Wayne State University, 2020
• Excellence in Postdoctoral Mentorship Award, Wayne State University, March 2020
• Thank-A-Teacher Letter of Appreciation, Wayne State University - The Office for Teaching and Learning, 2019 (letter attached)
• Faculty Research Excellence Award, College of Engineering, Wayne State University, 2019
• Water Network Fellow, Michigan’s University Research Corridor (URC), 2017
• Outstanding Reviewer, Algal Research, 2016
• Third Place IoT (Internet of Things) Detroit Competition, April 2016
• President’s Research Enhancement Program Grant, Wayne State University, 2015
• University Research Grant, Wayne State University, 2015
• Excellence in Engineering Education (ExCEEd) Fellow, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), 2015