Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies

Scientists and engineers working together for a sustainable future

Tagged: Water

Home is Where Clean Water Flows

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📥  Seminars & Conferences

IWA Young Water Professional Benelux Conference, 5-7 July

Going back to the source

On the 5th of July I returned to the Bioscience Engineering department of the University of Ghent where I gained my Master’s degree in Bioscience Engineering nearly a year ago. The department was hosting the 5th IWA Young Water Professionals BeNeLux (Belgium-Netherlands-Luxembourg) conference. A total of 140 participants had the opportunity to listen to 73 presentations spread over 3 parallel sessions, take part in 2 of the 7 offered workshops and network over posters, coffee, and rooftop-grown, sustainable food from Ghent. Additionally, 4 social activities were offered which resulted in a total of 232 special Belgian beers consumed, responsible for 17 m3 of water usage according to the organising committee.

Queuing for sustainable rooftop-grown food

The first day started in the late afternoon with a welcome reception allowing participants to eat some traditional Belgian fries from a real “frietkot” and loosen up the conversation after a Belgian beer. For me, it was a wonderful opportunity to see my old research group. I was brought up-to-date with the ongoing research, for instance how the results from my dissertation, for which I operated 2 bioreactors on a 5 litre scale, contributed to the start-up of a pilot scale 60 litre bioreactor (my undergrad research was actually useful!).

Getting back in touch

A typical Belgian mobile frietkot

“What do you mean I got accepted to give a presentation?!”

The second and third day were in full conference mode including inspiring presentations, workshops and a guided evening walk through Ghent followed by a classic YWParty. The presentation sessions allowed me to listen to talks about emerging micropollutants, which fits great with my MRes 2 topic. Other talks were about anaerobic microbial processes for the production of VFA and anaerobic digestion, a topic right up my alley!

Although I must admit I was a little nervous about those presentation sessions as I was one of the speakers. Giving a 15-minute presentation followed by 5 minutes of questions as a (not even) first year PhD student next to PhD candidates in their final year could have been overwhelming if it wasn’t for the supportive audience and relaxed atmosphere. I got some great feedback, tips/tricks and new research/presentation ideas (also a huge confidence boost). This is why I highly recommend others to participate in a YWP conference and take a chance at presenting!

Presenting my MRes1 project

Two other presentation sessions I attended (physicochemical water treatment and electrochemical treatment methods) were not linked to my own research yet I recognized topics studied by other CSCT students allowing me to gain a better insight in other water research fields.

Would you drink it?

Keynote and plenary speakers talked about the circular economy of water, how a change of perceptions requires speaking to peoples’ emotions, the typical issues encountered when scientists and lawyers meet and the synergy about fundamental and applied research. In terms of circular economy of water, let me introduce you the UGent’s “Sewer to Brewer” beer (brewed using recovered wastewater!).

From tidying data to saving Haiti

The two workshops I attended were very different but equally both inspiring. The first taught me all about tidy data, how publishing data is as valuable as publishing papers, the usefulness of Github and how scripting data can really make your life as a researcher easier as long as you do it wisely (For more info I recommend looking up “Good enough practices for Scientific Computing” by Greg Wilson, and checking out www.5stardata.info).

Tidying data in the workshop

The second workshop was given by Doctors Without Borders. I had no idea about the valuable work they do in the field of water, hygiene, and sanitation. They are always looking for engineers and scientists for projects regarding water supply, water treatment, vector control, waste management and much more. In a case study, we had to work in a team to supply drinking water in a Haitian city that was hit by 3 consecutive hurricanes under time pressure. This challenge only showed a glimpse of how ingenious and stress-resilient you would have to be to work during such tragic events on the field.

A very tiring yet fruitful set of days

In conclusion, I can say the conference was a great learning experience, providing me with loads of new ideas and useful tips. It was great strengthening old connections and meeting YWP working in the industry, doing a PhD or working as post-doc, which reminds me to go and invite/accept invitations on LinkdIn!

Group photo

ChemEngDay 2015

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📥  Events, Prizes & awards, Seminars & Conferences

Four students from the CSCT: Stephen Bradley, Dominic Ferdani, Richard Maltby and Jon Chouler, recently attended and presented posters at ChemEngDay 2015, hosted by the University of Sheffield for IChemE. The event had over 350 Chemical Engineers from academia and industry. This report is written by 1st year PhD student, Jon Chouler, who also received the first prize for his poster in the Food and Water category.

ChemEngDay 2015 was held in the magnificent Sheffield City Hall, and upon arrival on Wednesday morning at 9 am,  it was clear that the conference would be a good one.  Posters were displayed on subjects ranging from food and water, to innovative materials, and engagement and outreach. Stalls from industrial sponsors were a plenty too, and IChemE also had plenty of interesting displays up.

The day kicked off with introductory talks from Prof Mike Hounslow on the history of Sheffield engineering (interestingly started off from donations by nearby workers nearly 100 years ago), and Prof Geoff Maitland about the importance of Chemical Engineering in our world. An exaltation of our importance was  enabled by an excellent “how we make a difference” through Chemical Engineering competition, where we had to write in few words on how our research makes a difference in the world.

The first plenary lecture of the day was given by Joroen van der Veer, former CEO of Shell, with some very inspiring words on scenario development for driving a business, as well as leadership models for creating change and impact in a company. As well as giving some very interesting insights into the global energy future from a petrochemical company perspective, he also highlighted the importance of young chemical engineers in inspiring the next generation of engineers.

On the afternoon of the first day,  I attended a series of lectures on water and food security. Prof David Butler discussed the impending ‘Perfect Storm’ that approaches us relating to water, food and energy scarcity. He also previewed some very interesting work that looks at addressing this issues by ‘thinking globally, but acting locally’. Jon McGagh presented on water and energy challenges that are prevalent in the mining industries in Australia, and it was hearkening to learn about how serious these challenges are to the planet, as well as the need for excellent engineers to overcome these. Lastly, Constantijn Sanders from Nestlé, discussed his perspectives on sustainable food, which myself being an avid community gardener in Bath, was very fascinating. The key to enabling sustainable food he suggested was in creating stability in access, availability and use of food. His analysis of the nitrogen cycle of growing animals for protein also highlighted that we could all create a big positive impact f we reduced our meat based food consumption. However, I don’t think some are ready to give up the steaks just yet.

With the formal lectures for the day concluded, all the attendees descended upon the beautiful Cutler’s Hall for an excellent dinner, and a chance to talk to fellow Chemical Engineers, as well as to let loose and have a boogie to the Sinatra-esque tones of the Paul Pashly Band. Stephen enjoyed it very much as you can see:

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, we arrived nice and early for the final day of ChemEngDay 2015. I attended a series of lectures on Education and Outreach for engineers, which was run as a very discussion based session with a good amount of dialogue and experience sharing throughout. Jarka Glassey and Eva Sorensen gave fascinating talks on engaging and motivating first year chemical engineers through the use of problem based learning very early on in the course, which indeed sounded like a very effective learning tool for undergraduates. Mark Haw presented his work as part of Really Small Science, an initiative that engages young children through experiments and exhibits to educate and inspire them all about nanotechnology. As someone who really enjoys engaging younger audiences with my research, it was really helpful to hear the experiences of someone who does this very well.

The day progressed with a poster session over drinks (of course), where I got to present my own poster on how Microbial Fuel Cells can be used as water sensors for developing countries, as well as to peruse the excellent amount of research that is going on at various institutes for Chemical Engineering.

Poster session

The day concluded with Philip Wright giving the closing words on the day in the Memorial Hall, and also with prizes for the best posters at the conference. Low and behold, my poster received first prize in the Food and Water category and I received a shiny new iPad mini!

So all in all, an excellent conference with so many fascinating and inspiring talks. I for one will most certainly be attending next year’s ChemEngDay at the University of Bath (and not only because it’ll be very local!).