In 2018, Professor Cindy Smith was appointed Royal Academy of Engineering-Scottish Water Research Chair on Biofiltration by Biological Design. The Academy’s Research Chairs and Senior Research Fellowships scheme strengthens the links between industry and academia by supporting exceptional academics in UK universities to undertake use-inspired research for five years, co-sponsored by an industrial partner.
Professor Cindy Smith, Professor of Environmental Microbiology at James Watt School of Engineering, is working with Scottish Water to develop ways of producing low-cost, low-energy, sustainable drinking water for rural communities.
There are increased economic and environmental costs associated with providing water treatment for areas of low population density, rather than those for centralised large urban communities. The significant costs associated with centralised water provision and treatment is further exacerbated for rural communities where treatment plants for 100 homes are the same as those for 10,000.
Professor Smith’s University of Glasgow team is examining the biology behind natural treatment technologies such as slow sand filtration. Her group is using analytical methods to assess complex microbial systems with the goal of engineering their ecology and function to develop a point-of-entry biological water treatment.
Using evidence-based research, Professor Smith is aiming to utilise eco-engineering and optimisation of microbial system functions to provide low-tech, high-performance biolfilters for the treatment of drinking water in rural areas.
The biogeochemical cycles that would enable sustainable water treatment for rural Scotland, also exist in almost every habitat on earth. The impact for her research has a global potential. Her work could result in zero-carbon water filtration systems that could be applied worldwide.