School of Engineering


Sarah Cotterill

Sarah is one of our STREAM alumni.

Research engineers at STREAM have the ability to focus on current and upcoming problems, which may usually be too costly in terms of time afforded, for the industry to carry out in-house.

My four-year project is focused on assessing the viability of a novel wastewater treatment technology, a microbial electrolysis cell.

This technology has the potential to operate at a lower energy demand than existing assets, whilst also producing value in the form of hydrogen, electricity or chemicals.

Research into recovering energy from waste has exploded in recent years; unsurprisingly as we start to see the effects of rising energy costs. It is possible for wastewater treatment to be energy-neutral or energy-positive if only a fraction of the intrinsic energy can be harvested.

The technology has been well proven at the laboratory scale, but the water industry needs to know whether this is a valid asset for future investment. The aim of the project is to scale-up the technology through a series of pilot scale prototypes, deducing the durability and longevity of the asset in the process.

I was keen to apply for the STREAM engineering doctorate because it centred on the practical application of academic research. I graduated with a BSc in Biology from Newcastle University, before completing a MSc at Durham University.

Following this, I was employed as an analyst in the organic chemistry laboratory of Northumbrian Water Scientific Services. The taught component of the course, at Cranfield University, particularly appealed to me. It enables me to draw together aspects of my education and work experience with a sound basis of engineering knowledge.

Coupled with this, the guidance from industrial partners provides opportunities to make connections and learn specific skills that may elevate my career in the water sector.

The EngD provides an excellent experience in the nature of the research carried out, as well as a plethora of opportunities to expand your professional network to support a lengthy and successful career in the industry.

All of the STREAM projects aim to provide a solution to an existing problem for the water utilities, so part of the reward is in witnessing the contribution your research is making to solving these issues.