I graduated from Newcastle University in 2007 with a degree in Marine Biology. I particularly enjoyed learning about molecular biology, and so I decided to continue my studies by taking an MSc in Bioinformatics and computational biology.
Graduating in 2010, I wanted to use my knowledge in an applied way and began looking for the ideal opportunity.
When searching for bioinformatics opportunities I came across the STREAM EngD project 'Next generation sequencing for the water industry' and was impressed by the applied nature of the course.
I wasn't really considering a PhD as I didn't want to go in to academia, but when I looked into the EngD I realised the whole course is geared towards gaining a position in industry. The combination of significant time spent with industry sponsors and structured training throughout was highly attractive, and so I decided to apply.
My project investigated the potential applications of a next generation sequencing platform in relation to the water and wastewater industry. After discussion with the sponsors, it was decided we would investigate activated sludge microbial ecology and microbial source tracking.
The activated sludge work identified the fingerprints of an efficient plant and thus allowed proactive management to prevent foaming, bulking or consent failure, as well as preventing over-aeration and subsequent energy wastage.
The microbial source tracking work assisted in catchment management and bathing water quality enhancement by identifying the primary source of pollution load. This will prevent unnecessary capital expenditure and minimise energy use in treatment by reducing the load upon the plant.
I learnt a great deal about the water industry in a very short time thanks to the STREAM induction semester. I was set a group assignment which involved designing a wastewater treatment plant from start to finish, and I remember thinking it was an impossible task at the outset.
These days, whenever I start to think the learning curve is eternally vertical, I just think back to that project and the feeling of satisfaction when I submitted my contribution to the task. The course is by no means easy, but the knowledge gained is immense.
Outside of the taught component, the time spent with sponsors has given me a feel for how the industry works in reality. I find the breadth of work fascinating, and the potential for development is unlimited. All the sponsors are really enthusiastic about what we're doing and are willing to help in any way they can.
I feel confident that when I complete my EngD I will be able to secure a position without too much difficulty, and whilst I never thought of a career in the water industry before the course I'm now convinced this is the career path for me.
Gregg has recently launched his own company based on his EngD research. It offers genetic profiling of bacteria services to the water and allied sectors. The company is called PROKARYA.