Microbiology in urban water systems

water1Safe, clean water supplies are vital to public health. Potable water and sewage treatment are easily taken for granted, yet behind it all a vast infrastructure is maintained by thousands of engineers. The role of biology - as a potential risk to health and the environment and as a tool for treating waste is central.

Professor Catherine Biggs' research ranges across current and future applications of biology in the water industry, including examining mechanisms of biofilm formation and exploring the complex interactions within bacterial communities found in drinking water supplies.

Synthetic biology is the rational engineering of new functionality into biological systems by genetic modification. In the 21st century such bioengineering will play an increasing role in our lives. Professor Biggs explores future applications and risks, including social concerns of deploying microbes engineered through synthetic biology in the water industry.

Dr Henriette S. Jensen's research addresses health and pollution risks arising from the discharge of untreated wastewater - a problem predicted to worsen as the frequency of intense storms increases due to climate change. Dr Jensen is revealing details of the microbial communities found in sewers, in particular hydrogen sulphide oxidising bacteria that contribute to erosion of concrete sewer structures.

cbiggs"In ChELSI we aim to move beyond the traditional 'black box' environmental engineering approach to study biological interactions with physical and chemical processes within the water environment Key to this is our cross disciplinary group that combines fundamental understanding of biology with engineering to study processes that are relevant to industry and community needs."

Professor Catherine Biggs
Chair in Biological and Environmental Engineering

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