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Personal profile

Scholarly biography

I am an Environmental Microbiologist interested in the role of water in the spread and control of water-related diseases. I'm particularly interested in how we can protect human health and aquatic environments. My teaching and research focuses on three main areas:

  • the behaviour of microbiological and chemical contaminants (e.g. viruses, bacteria, pesticides and microplastics) in engineered and natural environments; 
  • the provision of safe water and sanitation in low-income settings; and
  • the development and application of novel, low-cost methods for determining sources of contamination.

My teaching draws heavily on current and recent research projects investigating water quality in Africa (UNICEF), Asia (Gates Foundation), and South America (SantanderBritish Council, Newton Fund).  

Approach to teaching

My teaching is underpinned by contemporary case material drawn from my personal experience of international collaborative research in the field of water and sanitation. Modules taught include ‘Water, Sanitation and Health’, ‘Soil and Water’, ‘Global Environmental Issues’, ‘overseas Fieldwork’, ‘Skills for Research and Careers’, along with supervision of Undergraduate and Master’s level dissertations.

Much of my teaching also involves a fieldwork component to help my students contextualise the subject matter and a laboratory component to ensure that they have a sound grasp of methods used for water quality monitoring. Students who take these modules come from a variety of disciplines including Environmental Science, Geography, Biology, Chemistry, Ecology, Civil Engineers and Geology. Getting students with different, often complementary skills sets to work together across disciplines is useful preparation for the work-based challenges that await them beyond the University.

Research interests

My research career to date has focused on the development of innovative low-cost tools that tackle pressing global disease problems. In Malawi, the re-design and improved management of rural wells have provided low-income communities with safer drinking water. In Europe, new methods have identified human faecal contamination of rivers and established viral removal rates in a wastewater reuse systems. This information is helping water companies and environmental agencies to meet international standards and more effectively protect public health, by detecting, or interrupting the transmission routes of human waterborne diseases.

Supervisory Interests

I am interested in supervising postgraduate research students in the following areas: development and application of low-cost and/or rapid water quality monitoring tools; behaviour of microorganisms (particulalry viruses) within the environment and impacts on human health; understanding environmental interactions of emerging contaminants; water and sanitation within low-income and/or emergency settings.

According to French Physiologist Claude Bernard - "The science of life is a superb and dazzlingly lighted hall which may be reached only by passing through a long and ghastly kitchen." Anyone who has undertaken a doctoral degree is likely to agree with this analogy (at least at some point during their journey). As a PhD supervisor, I see my role as someone who can potentially make the kitchen a little less ghastly, or the journey slightly less arduous. I strive to provide a highly connected, supportive, nurturing international research environment with the Environment and Public Health Research and Enterprise Group.

To date I have overseen the supervision, career development and successful completion of 11 doctoral students from the UK, Italy, Portugal, Cameroon, Nigeria, Brazil and India. I am currently supervising a further 3 PhD candidates. My PhD students have originated from an equally diverse range of disciplines including Fisheries Engineering, Environmental Science, Biology, Biomolecular Science, Microbiology, Ecology, Environmental Management, Mathematics and have worked for NGO’s in Haiti (MSF), on Gates Foundation-funded research in India, on US AID-funded research into safe excreta disposal in emergencies (Cholera and Ebola treatment centres), led MRC-funded projects in Kenya, founded research groups in Brazil, and managed prestigious research laboratories in the US.

All have gone on to forge careers within the burgeoning field of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and or microbiology, either via academia, or industry. The sustained success of our thriving research group stems from a blend of enthusiasm for the wider subject area and from a long-held desire to break down barriers, to ensure that epidemiologists mix with engineers, and microbiologists work with modellers. This has been achieved by exchanging PhD students (and Early Career Researchers) with trusted and established international project collaborators within the public, private and voluntary sectors.

I also maintain a rolling programme of group activities, training initiatives and social events for new arrivals into the group, which is increasingly populated by previous PhD students who are even better placed to support the career aspirations of our current and future Doctoral students. With unsafe water supply and sanitation responsible for an estimated 842,000 deaths per year, the WASH sector continues to face significant challenges, which are only likely to be met through interdisciplinary, cross-border collaboration by a new generation of WASH-focussed researchers, capable of confidently sharing ideas across a range scientific domains and via an increasingly complex network of stakeholders and end-users. I hope that as my students continue to emerge into the ‘dazzlingly lighted hall’ they are as well-rounded and well-placed as possible to meet this challenge.   

External positions

Trustee, Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust (OART)

31 Jan 2015 → …

Keywords

  • TD Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering
  • Q Science (General)

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