Professor Rachel Gomes awarded MBE in Birthday Honours

Posted on Wednesday 8th June 2022

Rachel Gomes, Professor of Water and Resource Processing and part of the University of Nottingham Energy Institute, has been recognised with an MBE for her services to research and education in the 2022 Birthday Honours List. 

I am delighted to be recognised and very grateful to those who nominated me - this has come as a huge surprise! I am very fortunate to work with colleagues from many disciplines and communities, and together we seek to deliver impact in research and education at the local, national and international scale. Thank you to the University of Nottingham and Papplewick Pumping Station, as well as organisations in the UK, India, Mexico and Ghana.
Rachel Gomes, Professor of Water and Resource Processing, Faculty of Engineering

Professor Gomes is a passionate, global leader in the development of new solutions to ensure water security for all. Her research is on wastewater treatment and reuse in the urban water cycle, with a focus on pollutants, water quality and converting spent (waste) resources into useful products including chemicals and energy (waste to wealth). Her expertise is particularly significant for the future resource sustainability of UK by understanding how water, chemical, energy resources including mismanaged (waste) resources that are consumed in our society can be more intelligently sourced and used, without depreciating the process environments from which they are derived

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham, Professor Shearer West, said: "I am delighted that Rachel's achievements and commitment to her research and support of good causes have been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours, particularly in this very special year of Her Majesty's Platinum Jubilee. I offer her my congratulations, which I know will be echoed by all of those friends and colleagues who have the pleasure of working with her at the university.

"Rachel's research focus on water, one of the world's most precious resources, is driving forward knowledge and innovation that will have a direct impact on global sustainability, while her volunteering with science outreach and heritage projects demonstrates her passion and dedication to using her skills to make a huge contribution to her local community."

Professor Gomes leads a 140-strong team of from across the university’s campuses in the UK, Malaysia and China in its Water Works collaboration, which brings researchers together from across a wide range of disciplines to provide solutions to global water challenges by addressing complex industrial, environmental and societal issues associated with the management of water processes.

Together, Water Works colleagues have driven the water resilience agenda with local organisations in Nottinghamshire, nationally and beyond. As a result, nature-based solutions recommended by Water Works are now cited in the Nottingham City Council’s Carbon Neutral 2028 action plan – a blueprint to make Nottingham the UK’s first carbon-neutral city.

Professor Gomes has represented the UK on the recovery of materials from wastewater as part of symposium with China, Germany, Japan, UK and USA delegates on water-related challenges and solutions in a changing world. This led to a 2016 White Paper on wastewater, pollution, and resource recovery that identified future water research directions and policy needs.

From 2019, she was an invited expert on the United Nations Environment Programme Advisory Group to address the UN Environment Assembly’s adopted resolution on Plastic Litter and Microplastics including recommending indicators to harmonise monitoring, assessment, and inform on global policies. The resulting technical report “From pollution to solution” in late 2021 was recently used to inform discussions at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) in March 2022, where countries came together to decide a way forward for global cooperation.

In 2014 she was selected as one of the Analytical Scientist’s ‘Top 40 under 40 Power List’ and also became one of 20 on the EPSRC Early Career Forum in Manufacturing Research (to 2019). As a role model for women in the STEM subjects, she was recognised in 2020 as one of the Top 50 Women in Engineering for Sustainability by the Women’s Engineering Society. Her contributions to research and education were also recognised through the University Vice Chancellor and Lord Dearing Awards in 2020 and 2017 respectively.

For more than 12 years, Professor Gomes has been an ambassador for the educational charity, STEM Network, sharing her love for water reuse as well as her career experiences at school talks, and research knowledge at outreach events such as the annual Nottingham Pint of Science Festival.

Since 2014, she has been a trustee of the Papplewick Pumping Station, an award winning museum and Britain’s finest Victorian waterworks. In addition to supporting the conservation of the site, Professor Gomes has contributed to educational resources that cover the history of - as well as the social, scientific, geographical and engineering aspects of – water, providing an immersive educational experience. In 2018, she was instrumental in setting up Papplewick’s Water Education Trust (WET) Scholarships which each year offers early career researchers working on water issues at the University of Nottingham to attend a conference, present a paper and to feature in the Papplewick Pumping Stations’ annual public lecture. .

Watch Professor Rachel Louise Gomes' mini-lecture on 'wastewater treatment and beyond - the road to sustainability and the circular economy'.

Read more about two of Rachel’s projects working with industry and academia on the key resources of water and energy:

Multiple target data-driven models to enable sustainable process manufacturing: An industrial bioprocess case study, is in collaboration with Lindhurst Engineering and funded by the EPSRC to develop a predictive model of the most sustainable technology configuration for treating process wastewaters to reduce pollutant load for water reuse, while simultaneously generating energy in the form of biogas.

Meta-analysis and machine learning to explore soil-water partitioning of common pharmaceuticals, explores water reuse for irrigation, working with colleagues from the UK and Mexico, funded by EPSRC and the Government of Mexico. They use meta-analysis and machine learning to identify recommendations to increase the environmental relevance of pharmaceutical sorption studies from wastewater applied to agriculture.

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