Food, Water, Waste Research Group
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Rachel Louise Gomes

Associate Professor in Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering



Rachel is an Assistant Professor in Chemical and Environmental Engineering within the Faculty of Engineering. Her research interests lie in adaptive bioprocessing towards water engineering and manufacture within the chemical context, facilitated by novel analytics. This requires understanding system complexity to evaluate and develop efficient processes to ensure resource security and resilience.

Rachel graduated from Imperial College London in 2007 with a PhD award funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). She was the Scientific Project Manager for an €11M EU-funded research project encompassing 14 countries and 22 partners, before returning to Imperial where Rachel received the Wellcome Trust Value in People Award and was one of the '100 women, 100 visions' celebrating women scientists and engineers at Imperial. In 2009, Rachel obtained an Anne McLaren Fellowship to continue her research and in late 2011 became a Lecturer within the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Nottingham.

In 2013 Rachel was selected as an University Engineering Future Research Leader, and in 2014 became 1 of 20 on the EPSRC Early Career Forum in Manufacturing Research, Trustee for the Papplewick Water Education Trust and Management Board Member on the BBSRC High Value Chemicals from Plants Network. 2014 also saw the Analytical Scientist magazine publish its Power List featuring 40 individuals under the age of 40 who are already having a big impact on the field of analytical science. Rachel was listed in recognition of developing novel analytics to inform on wastewater treatment and chemical manufacture. In particular, developing methods that enabled evaluation of process plant efficiency for bioactive chemical removal during municipal wastewater treatment.

Rachel is a member of the Food, Water, Waste (FWW) Research Group.

Teaching Summary

Module Convener and Lecturer

  • Water Treatment, Year 3 MEng/BEng 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
  • Research and Design projects, Year 4 MEng and MSc Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering
  • Contaminant, Fate and Impact in the Environment, Year 3 BSc/BEng School of Biosciences
  • Engineering for Biologists, Year 1 PhD BBSRC DTP 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)
  • Joshua Pilkington PhD Chemical Engineering, Developing novel, adaptive manufacturing approaches for natural product extraction utilising Artemisia annua as a case study, EPSRC Scholarship (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 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

Selected Publications

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). Research projects include the development and application of:

  • Biocatalytic treatment technologies to remove emerging contaminants from wastewater matrices.
  • Bioanalytical techniques enabling design evaluation and efficiency determination of wastewater treatment technologies for bioactive chemical removal.
  • Novel adsorbents for the remediation and reuse of metal pollutants in environmental matrices
  • Manufacture of bio-extractives from renewable feedstock for use as valuable products relevant to the pharma and food industries.
  • Adaptive manufacturing approaches for natural product extraction with a particular focus on process response to inherent feedstock variability.
  • Sustainable processing opportunities for sediment including characterisation, treatment and evaluating waste as a valuable resource.

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:

  • Evaluating the influence of complex process environments on biocatalyst activity
  • Antimicrobial resistance in dairy farming - understanding real world interactions and the role of enzymes
  • Evaluation and engineering of enzymes for use in water processing industries

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.

Food, Water, Waste Research Group

Faculty of Engineering
The University of Nottingham
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 82 32502