Hochella Group

Group research summary

Presently, our research falls under three over-arching themes: nanogeoscience, environmental nanotechnology and mineral-microbe interactions. Within these loose constraints, our research is aimed at addressing fundamental research questions, such as, but not limited to:

What are the roles of natural nanoparticles and nanofilms in the environment, and how might this knowledge be applied to environmental nanotechnology?

What are the fundamental properties (e.g. size-dependent reactivity) of environmentally relevant nanominerals?

How do metal-reducing bacteria influence mineral surface chemistry, and how do electrons move between them?

Current Research Projects

Our research projects in the last few years include studies of a number of aspects of nanogeoscience, mineral-microbe interactions, and biogeochemistry, including electron transfer in cytochromes, geochemical influences of quorum sensing in bacteria, toxic metal mobility and bioavailability, acid mine drainage, mineral property changes as a function of size, the complex reactivity of important manganese and iron-oxide minerals, and the electronic structure and atomic resolution imaging of mineral surfaces. All of these studies have important environmental consequences and technological applications.

For post-doc inquiries, contact Mike directly at hochella@vt.edu

Research Funding

Mike Hochella has received $19.50M in research funds from the following funding agencies (past and present, in alphabetical order):

American Chemical Society (Petroleum Research Fund)


Commonwealth of Virginia

Department of Energy

Gas Research Institute

National Science Foundation


Stanford University


United States Geological Survey

Virginia Tech

Graduate students in this research group are typically supported by a departmental teaching assistanceship during their first year or so while they are busy taking classes. As soon as they have time to begin their own research, they are put on 12-month/year research assistanceships for the remainder of their stay. Post-docs are also supported in our lab.

Research Facilities

We maintain and/or have ready access to a number of laboratories in this department, around campus, and at other universities and national labs (e.g., the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at PNNL). These laboratories cover the waterfront in terms of mineral and mineral surface studies, bacterial culturing and characterization, and molecular biology. Many millions of dollars of instrumentation and facilities are involved. Individual instruments and facilities are far too many to list here. For a sampling of what is offered through ICTAS, follow this link to the Nanoscale Characterization and Fabrication Laboratory. Specific inquiries regarding other equipment are welcome.

photo of graduate student doing research

We use many surface-sensitive techniques such as X-Ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS) to understand the complex chemistry at surfaces and interfaces.

photo of Transmission Electron Microscope

State-of-the-art transmission electron microscopes (FEI Titan 80-300 shown above) allow us to image and analyze nanoparticles, mineral surfaces, and bacterial cells.