Sir Joseph Swan Centre for Energy Research

Staff Profile

Professor David Graham

Professor of Ecosystems Engineering



Effective environmental engineering requires the integrated application of technical, social, and medical sciences to solve complex problems of our day. This especially applies to environmental issues that straddle human and environmental health, such as addressing the Covid-19 pandemic or mitigating the global spread of antibiotic resistance. Our work combines methods from engineering, microbiology, ecology, mathematics, biochemistry, and molecular biology to solve problems in environmental engineering in a holistic manner. Research topics include biological waste treatment, ecotoxicology, bioremediation, and the environmental fate and impacts of trace and genetic contaminants, recently including the use of wastewater markers to address the global pandemic. Current research projects include: 1) the transmission, fate and impact of antibiotic resistance bacteria and genes in the environment resulting from human activity; 2) wastewater-based epidemiology as an approach to health protection; 3) improving water and environmental quality in the emerging and developing world using integrated technical and social science approaches; 4) energy minimization in water, wastewater and solid waste management systems; and 5) the microbiology and ecology of greenhouse gas production and suppression, especially in Polar regions.


  • Chartered Engineer (CEng)
  • 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 - Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (Department of Bioengineering and Biotechnology)

Publication and Research Summary

Recent Impact

Examples of meeting Sustainable Development Goals


Research Interests

  • Pubic policy focused research, especially related to human health protection
  • Antimicrobial resistance and other health issues: 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

  • Wastewater-based epidemiology - SARS-CoV-2, Covid-19, and other infectious disease
  • Ecology and genetics of antibiotic genes and bacteria in wastewater treatment processes
  • Antibiotic resistance and infectious disease fate and modelling in the emerging and developing world
  • Integrated technical and social solutions for protecting health and the environment
  • Microbial and functional biogeography of High Arctic ecosystems

Postgraduate Supervision - Primary Supervisor

Current PhD Students
  • 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
  • Panagiota (Pani) Adamou (2016 - 2020) Assessing Tertiary Treatment Technologies for Reducing Antibiotic Resistance
  • 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

  • Rising Tide Foundation (2021-2124; £520K) Identifying best practice for empowerment through entrepreneurial freedom: A project for the marginalised in slums areas in New Delhi. CI (PI - Prof Pauline Dixon, HASS), with six other CIs.
  • NERC (2020-2023; £1.2M) AMRflows: Antimicrobials and resistance from manufacturing flows to people - joined up experiments, mathematical modelling and risk analysis. CI (PI - Dr Jan Kreft, U of Birmingham), with six other CIs in the UK and India.
  • NERC (2020-2021; £790K) National Covid-19 Wastewater Epidemiology surveillance Programme (N-WESP). CI (PI - Dr Andrew Singer, CEH), with seven other CIs. 
  • 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 - Charles Knapp, U o Strathclyde), with one CI.


Postgraduate Teaching