Sustainable water treatment – towards net-zero biotechnologies minimizing GHG emissions (nitrous oxide, N2O)

   College of Science and Engineering

  Dr C Domingo-Felez  Applications accepted all year round  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Greenhouse gases are emitted during water treatment, specifically nitrous oxide (N2O) which is almost 300 and worse than CO2. Hence, minimizing N2O emissions is of outmost interest in our global aim to meet the net-zero greenhouse gas emission objectives and become carbon-neutral biotechnologies. 

The main objective of water treatment during centuries has been to first collect and discharge wastewater into the environment with a safe biochemical composition. In the last decades, after achieving safe effluents, energy savings became the next target. Recent interest in quantification of greenhouse gas emissions from water treatment has shown that N2O emissions have been greatly underestimated. Countries such as Denmark have already started national campaigns to monitor, and soon tax, N2O emissions from water treatment, which are of growing concern globally, as Scotland has started to tackle this problem.  

N2O emissions are biologically driven during removal of NH4+ / NO3- from water streams by a diverse consortia of microorganisms. Informed on the microbial metabolism of bacteria we have built models to describe and predict N2O emissions. At the same time, the water treatment has collected a vast dataset of dynamic N2O emissions, but the data quality, and standardized procedures for data reporting are lacking. Hence, a big gap still exists between current approaches and governmental aims on policy making for GHG. Do not hesitate to contact if you are interested in any, or several of the topics below: 

- Discover interactions between microbial N2O production mechanisms (experimental/modelling). 

- Develop methodologies for rigorous analysis of existing mechanistic/data-driven models for wastewater treatment (modelling). 

- N2O measurement campaigns in full-scale wastewater treatment plants in collaboration with industry (experimental/modelling). 

- Elucidate the effect of process variables on the microbial competition for substrate and growth within the N- and C-cycle in suspended and biofilm systems (experimental/modelling). 

The outcome of this project solves an emerging problem of global concern, also beneficial for natural environments (e.g. soil, marine and freshwater systems, etc.). 

In this project you would collaborate with Danish partners, who are at the forefront of N2O emissions in water treatment. Within the University of Glasgow, in the James Watt School of Engineering, the project lies within the Water and Environment research group, including eight PIs (two RAEng research chairs, a RAEng early career research fellow), 15 PhDs and 13 PDRA. In recognition of their achievements and funding success, the Water and Environment group is located in the recently inaugurated Advanced Research Centre. 

Entry requirements 

The candidate must have a first class, or a strong upper second class, honours degree in environmental, chemical or a related engineering discipline, as well as excellent written and spoken communication skills. Previous experience with scientific programming (e.g. Matlab, Python, R) and/or bioreactor operation is also desirable but not essential. Candidates must be highly numerate and be willing to study any previously unknown underpinning areas of science that are required.  

Next Deadline: Mid January 2024


Biological Sciences (4) Engineering (12) Mathematics (25)

Funding Notes

We are seeking an outstanding candidate to apply to the James Watt School of Engineering Doctoral Scholarship Scheme. The deadline for application is end of May 2023, and a second round in January 2024 ***Also open to ROI students***
Informal enquiries and full applications (CV, letter of motivation and two references) to .
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