Chiachi Hwang was born in Taiwan, but spent most of her childhood in Saudi Arabia. Because of her upbringing, she has always been fascinated with various cultures around the world. After graduating high school from Switzerland, she went to Ohio Wesleyan University and completed a BA in biology as well as a minor in sociology-anthropology. Following her interest in learning how microbes can be used to clean up environmental pollutions, Chiachi decided to pursue a Ph.D. in microbiology at Miami University of Ohio. Her dissertation investigated the relationship between environmental conditions and microbial activities that facilitate the clean-up of contaminated groundwater from a legacy waste site. She then went to University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to work on projects that analyzed how different water treatment processes affected microbial regrowth in drinking water distribution networks.
Chiachi now works at Montana State University's Center for Biofilm Engineering as a research scientist with a particular focus in working with industry partners. Her projects aim to understand microbial activities that either enhance, inhibit, or exist as a bottleneck to industrial processes. The industry sectors Chiachi has worked with include water utility, mining, oil, paint, hygiene and skin care, and oral care. Her goal is to better characterize the ecology of microorganisms in these settings in order to help industries improve process control, product quality, and cost or risk assessment strategies. In addition to conducting research in the lab, Chiachi has also taught university courses “Microbes and Human Diseases” and “Applied Environmental Microbiology,” as well as microbiology laboratory courses and workshops. She is currently involved with the organization, 500 Women Scientists Bozeman Pod, in the hope to generate scientific interest in the local community. Chiachi has also recently discovered a love for photography. This new hobby has stretched her perspectives beyond her academic training and she hopes to further explore photography as a medium for storytelling alongside her research.