School of Engineering

Staff Profile

Dr Mathew Brown

Researcher in Environmental Engineering

Background

Background

From a strong background in classical environmental engineering, I have become a specialist in the microbial ecology of biological wastewater treatment systems, infrastructure essential to society on a global scale. Through my academic research and interactions with industry, I have developed a unique combination of skills and gained experience and expertise that lies at the interface between environmental engineering, theoretical ecology, microbiology and virology. My ambition is to utilise this knowledge to move towards a more sustainable future for the water and wastewater industry, thus society as a whole, by developing methods, theory and tools for the control and management of engineered microbial communities.

My principle research interests lie in the field of biological wastewater treatment and the use of ecological approaches to better understand the microbial communities that drive these globally important processes. I am currently working as part of a multidisciplinary team investigating the rules that determine the growth and dynamics of complex biological communities in such systems, incorporating biological, chemical, physical and hydrodynamic interactions (Website). This research builds on previous work I have undertaken looking into the role of environmental and stochastic effects on the composition of microbial communities, again in biological treatment systems. Alongside both projects, as part of my doctorate, I explored the impact of bacteriophages on such systems, both in terms of their role in community composition and structure and on function (plant performance) and functional stability. It is this exciting and potentially important arena that I see my future research. Unearthing the role viruses play in regulating the microbial communities and functional performance of engineered systems could be crucial in endeavours to better understand, manage and optimise these systems, which are currently facing unprecedented demands imposed by population growth, climate change mitigation and increasingly strict environmental regulation. Realising their potential to control problematic bacteria in engineered systems also offers an exciting research opportunity.

Qualifications

PhD in Environmental Engineering, Virus dynamics and their interactions with microbial communities and ecosystem functions in engineered systems”, Newcastle University 2019.

MSc in Environmental Engineering, Newcastle University 2010. Thesis “The Application of Microbial Biocathodes in Microbial Electrolysis Cells Lacking a Membrane”.

BSc in Geography, Newcastle University 2009. Thesis “Investigation Assessing Heavy Metal Contamination of Riverine and Bottom Sediments within the Glenridding Beck Catchment and Lake Ullswater, and the Subsequent Response of Macroinvertebrate Communities”.

Research

Research Interests

Biological Treatment Systems

Experimental and Theoretical Microbial Ecology

Engineered Systems Virology


Projects

EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account (Newcastle University): Tooling the water industry for better wastewater treatment management (current). Co-I, £39k.

EPSRC: BE:WISe – Biological Engineering: Wastewater Innovation at Scale (2015 - current). RA, £1.2M. Website

EPSRC: NUFEB - Newcastle University Frontiers in Engineering Biology (2013 - 2019). RA, £5.6M. Website

EPSRC: Predicting the acclimatisation of microbial watewater treatment communities as a function of the environment, random immigration, birth and death (2010 - 2013). RA, £647K.

Teaching

CEG8198: MSc Project and Dissertation in Environmental Engineering (Project/Dissertation Supervisor)


Publications