Centre for the Environment

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Rachel Louise Gomes MBE

Professor of Water & Resource Processing, Faculty of Engineering



Rachel Gomes is a Professor in Water & Resource Processing in Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Head of the Food Water Waste Research Group, and leads the University of Nottingham's Water Works Interdisciplinary Research Cluster comprising >140 academics, which features in the Carbon Neutral Nottingham 2028 Action Plan actively supporting Nottingham to become the UK's first carbon neutral city. Her research is on intelligent resource use in process environments, with a particular focus on waste/water treatment, water reuse, and process manufacturing for emerging pollutants and pollutant-to-product opportunities. Taking an interdisciplinary and systems approach, she develops strategies and solutions to more intelligently use and reuse water and interconnected resources to support sustainable and circular thinking, without depreciating the environment.

Rachel has represented the UK on the recovery of materials from wastewater, which led to the Water Challenges & Solutions White Paper (2016) and as an invited expert on the United Nations Environment Programme Advisory Group addressing the UN Environment Assembly's adopted resolution on Plastic Litter and Microplastics, recommending indicators to harmonise monitoring, assessment, and inform on global policies. She has >65 peer-reviewed publications and 5 book chapters including the 2014 RSC Chemical Pollution of the Aquatic Environment and its Control, and edited the 2012 European Environment Agency's Impacts of Endocrine Disrupters on Wildlife, People, and their Environments.

Rachel has a PhD from Imperial College London and received the Wellcome Trust Value in People Award and was one of the '100 women, 100 visions' celebrating women scientists and engineers. Rachel obtained an Anne McLaren Fellowship to continue her research at the University of Nottingham and in 2013 was selected as an University Engineering Future Research Leader. She is one of the Top 50 Women in Engineering: Sustainability awarded by the Women's Engineering Society (2020), was 1 of 20 in the UK on the EPSRC Early Career Forum in Manufacturing Research (2016-2019), and one of 2 UK-based researchers on the Analytical Scientist's Top 40 under 40 Power List for developing analytics to deliver sustainable resources towards net zero (2014, 2018). Rachel is also a trustee of the award winning, Papplewick Pumping Station a unique educational experience for schoolchildren and public. Her research contributions to the University, local community, and internationally led to the University Vice Chancellor's Medal in 2020 and in 2022 she was awarded an MBE for her services to water research and to education in the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Birthday Honours.

Rachel has been recognised as an University EDI Champion, is one of three Faculty Champions for the BAME Staff Network, and contributes to the University Intersectionality & Inclusion Oversight Group led by the PVC for EDI. Until July 2023, Rachel also sat on the University Senate and Council governance bodies for 10 and 8 years, respectively. Rachel is the Director for Researchers and Postgraduate Researchers for the Faculty of Engineering where she champions researchers to develop ownership and make informed choices that enhance their PhD experience and/or postdoctoral research career.

Expertise Summary

Expertise: process resilience, circular economy, wastewater treatment, process manufacture, analytics and modelling

Teaching Summary

Module Convener and Lecturer:

- Water Treatment, Year 3 MEng/BEng and MSc Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering

- Water Treatment Engineering, Year 4 MEng and MSc Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering

Contributing lecturer:

- Design projects, Year 3 MEng/BEng Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering

- Process Engineering Laboratories - Multicomponent separations in wastewater: Analysis and reactor design for adsorption processes, Year 3 MEng/BEng Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering

- Design & Research Projects - Bioprocess and Sustainable Process Engineering, Year 4 MEng and MSc Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering

- Contaminant, Environmental pollutants: Fate, Impact and Remediation., Year 3 BSc Environmental Sciences School of Biosciences

- Engineering for Scientists, Doctoral Training Partnership/Centre for Doctoral Training PhD students

Research supervisor:

- Kris Still PhD Biotechnology, Process focused enzyme engineering, BBSRC Scholarship (2013 - 2017)

- Anike Akinrinlade PhD Chemical Engineering, Developing sustainable approaches for processing valuable products from renewable biomass feedstock, BBSRC Scholarship (2012 - 2016)

- Youla Jenidi PhD Environmental Engineering, Biocatalyst-based treatment of bioactive chemical pollutants in wastewaters, University of Nottingham Dean of Engineering Scholarship for International Excellence (2012 - 2015)

- Nor Hazren Abdul Hamid PhD Environmental Engineering, Adsorption of heavy metal pollutants from water matrices by modified cellulose nanowhiskers, Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA) Scholarship (2012 - 2016)

- Shridharan Parthasarathy PhD Environmental Engineering, Addressing country specific issues in wastewater treatment, University of Nottingham Intercampus Scholarship - United Kingdom and Malaysia Campuses (2011 - 2014)

- Co-supervisor for Marie Athorn with the School of Biosciences, Establishing the ecological value of industrial constructed reedbeds, BBSRC Scholarship (2013 - 2017)

- Supervisor for EPSRC and BBSRC DTP Rotations and Engineering Research Placements, which are 8 - 12 week placements for Year 1 PhD students or Year 2/3 Chemical or Environmental Engineering students on research projects covering bio-extractives in wastewater treatment and chemical processes.

Research Summary

Resource management and waste minimisation are crucial in wastewater treatment and chemical processes. New approaches are needed to manage resources and treat wastes enabling reuse within the… read more

Current Research

Resource management and waste minimisation are crucial in wastewater treatment and chemical processes. New approaches are needed to manage resources and treat wastes enabling reuse within the process, value recovery from waste streams (e.g. chemicals and/or energy generation) and/or release into environmental systems (subject to meeting necessary legislative requirements). Of particular interest is the use of bio-sourced feedstocks or catalysts that increase the system complexity due to the inherent variability exhibited by the biological entity. Developing and evaluating processes to produce wastewater fit for reuse and manufacture chemicals to the desired specification need to understand and account for this complexity (adaptive bioprocessing).

My research interests are in wastewater, treatment, and reuse in the urban water cycle with a focus on pollutants, water quality and waste valorisation opportunities. We integrate monitoring and detection, response and intervention, and prediction to understand how wastewater reuse impacts and propagates in the urban water cycle (e.g. wastewater treatment, irrigation for crops, dairy farm manures and slurries). This incorporates understanding the variability of the water matrix and pollutant load, as well as ecosystem and anthropogenic influences and how this impacts pollutant remediation and process performance (whether anthropogenic - wastewater treatment or ecosystem driven - river systems, natural wetlands).

  1. Process understanding and treatment technologies to quantify and remediate pollutants (pharmaceuticals, steroids, metals, microplastics) in wastewater treatment, reuse and environmental systems including biocatalytic treatment technologies to remove emerging contaminants from wastewater matrices
  2. Analytics and modelling e.g. targeted and untargeted analysis of bioactive chemical pollutants and their metabolites to inform on process evaluation and technology development
  3. Evaluating the influence of complex variable process environments on pollutant fate and process performance e.g. enzyme activity as an indicator of process health
  4. Waste valorisation opportunities from wastewaters e.g. green bedding for the dairy farming industry, and novel adsorbents for chemical recovery from wastewaters
  5. Machine learning and cloud manufacturing as a sustainable process manufacturing route to process resilience and waste valorisation

Research activities are strongly aligned with industrial needs. One example project is seeking to develop a platform for sustainable manufacturing for industrial partners through addressing fundamental issues in the manufacture of chemicals. Industrial engagement also supports several PhD students with translation of research outcomes to industrial scale delivering improvements to drug manufacture and value from waste streams.

Opportunities are available in several of the above areas and also through the integrated four-year Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships in Mathematics for a Sustainable Society, EPSRC-funded Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Chemistry (CDT) and BBSRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). For informal enquiries, please contact Rachel with a cover letter and CV detailing your experience and interests. Information on applying to the Doctoral Training Centres is given on the respective websites.

Example projects from the Doctoral Training Centres include:

  1. Evaluating the influence of complex process environments on biocatalyst activity
  2. Antimicrobial resistance in dairy farming - understanding real-world interactions and the role of enzymes
  3. Evaluation and engineering of enzymes for use in water processing industries
  4. Data-driven models for delivering intelligent resource use in process manufacturing
  5. Novel adsorbent for waste valorisation and delivering water quality

Keywords: adaptive bioprocessing; resource efficiency; wastewater treatment; pollutant remediation; complex systems and processes; waste as a resource; feedstock variability and process constraints

Future Research

I welcome enquiries from potential PhD candidates from Home, EU and international countries who are interested in the following research areas: water quality, micropollutants (pharmaceuticals, antibiotics, metals, antimicrobial resistance, microplastics), wastewater treatment, bioprocesses, novel adsorbents, enzymes, waste to resource, circular economy, modelling and analytics.

Centre for the Environment

C/O School of Geography
The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 846 7712