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UBC Okanagan awarded Industrial Research Chair in advanced resource recovery from wastewater

Researcher Profile - Cigdem Eskicioglu

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The University of British Columbia
UBC’s Okanagan campus is an intimate learning community embracing bold new ways of thinking. We attract exceptional students and faculty who aim to change the world.

New role will create clean technologies for municipal wastewater treatment

UBC Okanagan announced that Engineering Professor Cigdem Eskicioglu has been named the Senior Industrial Research Chair (IRC) in advanced resource recovery from wastewater.

The IRC role, awarded in partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Metro Vancouver, will focus on developing the next generation wastewater sludge treatment technologies that recover energy and resources from what we pour down the drain.

“Dr. Eskicioglu is an internationally-recognized researcher in the area of waste reduction and resource recovery. Her use of innovative bioreactor technologies has advanced the field considerably,” says Phil Barker, vice-principal and associate vice-president, research and innovation at UBC Okanagan. “Her research is making wastewater treatment cheaper, safer, cleaner and more sustainable and is likely to have a significant impact for cities across the globe.”

Eskicioglu leads the Bioreactor Technology Group on UBC’s Okanagan campus where she develops treatment systems that produce cleaner wastewater byproducts and that repurpose those byproducts for sustainable uses, such as the production of bioenergy. Her group also develops technologies that minimize human-produced toxic chemicals, like pharmaceuticals, personal care products and pesticides, to reduce risks of treated wastewater sludge use in agriculture.

“NSERC’s research partnerships support collaborations that allow new scientific evidence to be created which economically, socially or environmentally benefits Canada and Canadians,” says Marc Fortin, NSERC vice-president, research partnerships. “This chair in collaboration with Metro Vancouver will have a significant impact on adopting new technologies by municipalities across the country, and will potentially create a strong ecosystem of innovation in wastewater treatment in Canada."

Metro Vancouver began collaborating with Eskicioglu in 2013 after a Canada-wide search to identify top researchers studying more efficient ways to remove excess ammonia from treated wastewater. The success of the initial partnership led to additional research collaboration that has already resulted in a provisional patent on an advanced bioreactor concept to boost renewable natural gas production.

“Dr. Eskicioglu is a leader in bioreactor technologies and has a strong record of successfully completing research projects for Metro Vancouver. We are thrilled that this Industrial Research Chair expands into thermal-chemical reactors that promise even greater resource recovery opportunities,” explains Paul Kadota, Metro Vancouver’s program manager of collaborative innovations.

The IRC funding will lead to laboratory testing and pilot programs to help evaluate emerging wastewater sludge conversion processes. These research findings will be considered by Metro Vancouver as they invest billions in capital infrastructure over the next decade to upgrade the region’s wastewater treatment facilities.

“I’m thrilled to step into this new role and further the potential of wastewater treatment and resource recovery technologies,” says Eskicioglu. “My research will help inform and improve Metro Vancouver’s treatment plant upgrades and provide valuable lessons to municipalities with similar challenges across Canada and around the world.”

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