School of Engineering

Staff Profile

Professor David Graham

Professor of Ecosystems Engineering



Engineering microbiology often relies on pseudo-theory in the development of descriptive and design tools; however, such methods rarely describe real systems with consistency. Our work combines methods from engineering, theoretical ecology, mathematics, biochemistry, and molecular biology to solve problems in environmental engineering at a fundamental level. Research topics include biological waste treatment, ecotoxicology, bioremediation, and the environmental fate and impacts of trace and genetic contaminants. Current research projects includes 1) the transmission, fate and impact of antibiotic resistance genes in the environment resulting from human activity; 2) energy minimization in water, wastewater and solid waste management systems; 3) the microbiology and ecology of greenhouse gas suppression and production in geochemical settings, especially in Polar regions; and 4) water and environmental quality in the developing and emerging world.


  • 1992 PhD - University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA
  • 1981 MASc - University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • 1977 BASc - University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Previous Positions

  • 2006-2009 Professor, University of Kansas, USA
  • 2001 Visiting Fellow, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  • 1999-2006 Associate Professor, University of Kansas, USA
  • 1992-1999 Assistant Professor, University of Kansas, USA
  • 1987-1992 Research Assistant/Associate, University of Arizona, USA
  • 1985-1987 Instructor, Coordinator of Water Resources Option Civil Engineering Technology, BCIT, Burnaby, Canada 
  • 1979-1987 Design Engineer/Project Engineer/Contract Consultant, Sigma Resource Consultants, Vancouver, Canada

Other Positions

  • Adjunct Professor - University of Kansas (Department of Geology)
  • Visiting Professor (pending) - Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (Department of Bioengineering and Biotechnology)

Publication and Research Summary

Recent Impact

Examples of meeting Sustainable Development Goals


Research Interests

  • Antimicrobial resistance: Drivers, environmental exposures and mitigation
  • Links between environmental quality and public health in the developing world
  • Low-energy water and wastewater treatment technologies
  • Microbial genetics and environmental biotechnology
  • Polar microbiology and genetics

Current Work

  • Ecology and genetics of antibiotic genes and bacteria in wastewater treatment processes
  • Antibiotic resistance and infectious disease fate in surface waters in rural SE Asia
  • Modelling antibiotic resistance migration and fate in developing countries
  • Bioenergy production from rice straw and other refractory wastes
  • Microbial and functional biogeography of High Arctic ecosystems

Postgraduate Supervision - Primary Supervisor

Current PhD Students
  • Panagiota (Pani) Adamou (2016 – expected 2020) Assessing Tertiary Treatment Technologies for Reducing Antibiotic Resistance
  • Amelie Ott (2017 – expected 2021) Modelling Antimicrobial Resistance Spread in Aquatic Systems in Emerging Countries.
  • Katie Robins (2019 – 2023)
  • Rui Xin – visiting PhD student from the School of Marine Science and Technology at Tianjin University (China)
Examples of Previous Graduates
  • Florence Jong (2015 – 2020) Low-energy Biological Treatment Technologies for Reducing Antibiotic Resistance Genes and Bacteria in Domestic Wastewater
  • Joshua Bunce (2016 – 2019) Small-scale, Low Energy Waste Treatment Systems for N and P Removal in Decentralised Rural Applications
  • Marcos Quintela Baluja (2014 – 2019) Urban Water Cycle and Antibiotic Resistance Genes Dissemination.
  • Cara Wray (2014 – 2018) Microbial Communities in Water Treatment Plants: Fate of Coliforms and other Bacteria.
  • Andrew Zealand (2013 – 2018) Operational Performance and Microbial Dynamics of Rice Straw Anaerobic Digestion.
  • Edmond Ndam (2011 – 2017) Treatment Technologies for Recycle Liquors: Nutrient Removal, Mass Balances, and Potential Recovery at Wastewater Treatment Plants.
  • Catherine Hands (2013 – 2016) Relationships between Zinc and Meropenem Resistance in the Natural Environment and Experimental Bioreactors.
  • Olorunwa Tijani (2010 – 2015) Anaerobic Digestion of Food Waste: A Case for Inclusion in Solid Waste Management Solutions for Nigeria.
  • Charles Knapp (1999 – 2002) Application of Molecular Techniques in Assessing Alachlor Transformation in Aquatic Mesocosms.
  • Hyung J Kim (1993 – 2003) Isolation, Structural Determination, and Characterization of a Novel Copper-binding Compound from Methylosinus trichosporium OB3b.

Impact on Antibiotic Resistance in the Environment

Examples of Recent Funding

  • Innovate UK/Newton Fund (2018-2020; £79.8K) Improving community health in Malaysia using sustainable decentralised wastewater treatment; PI, with two CIs
  • JPI-AMR (MRC) (2017-2020; £1.8M) DARWIN: Dynamics of antimicrobial resistance in the urban water cycle in Europe; CI (PI – DTU) with four CIs
  • EPSRC (2018-2020; £251.8K) Tackling AMR in Wastewater Systems with Sneaky Bacteria; PI
  • EPSRC IAA (2017-2018; £49.6K) Expanding the Reach of Multi-Disciplinary Environment and Health Research in SE Asia; PI, with one CI
  • NERC (AMR in the Real World) (2016-2018; £199K) Quantifying spatial AMR patterns across urban and rural landscapes; CI (PI - UoS), with one CI
  • EU-FP7 / Marie Curie Initial Training Networks (2013-2017; £4.2M) Microbial resource management and engineering in the urban water cycle, B Smets (PI) at DTU, with Graham and other CIs at Lisbon, Ghent & EAWAG


Postgraduate Teaching