In Search of Pollution: Microbial Source Tracking in the UK

An EngD's musings on Microbial Source Tracking (MST), Environmental Engineering, Education and Science Communication.


Professional experience

2018 – Present: Senior Policy Officer, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.

I was Awarded one of three places on the competitive NERC policy internship scheme. During the 3 month placement I was responsible for:

  • Project management of 3 work packages.
  • Delivering desk-based research on sustainability and regulatory processes in the retail sector.
  • Producing the first review of a Sustainable Growth Agreement both internally to the board and externally in the form of a report.


2014 – Present: Research Engineer, Northumbrian Water/ Newcastle University

This project is part of an extended 4-year engineering doctorate. The focus of the project is the Development and evaluation of new microbial source tracking methods to direct investment decisions for pollution mitigation in complex catchments. During the project I:

  • Developed new laboratory-based methods to identify and quantify diffuse, urban pollution.
  • Used these methods as part of a £50 million project and a separate catchment study.
  • Developed a decision support tool to aid in investment decisions for the UK water industry.
  • Consulted on further projects to apply expertise gained through this work.


2010 – 2013: Head of Learning Community and Teacher of Physics, Mascalls School

After spending one year as an outstanding teacher I was given an advanced skills teacher role within the school and subsequently promoted to Head of Learning community where my responsibilities included:

  • The pastoral care, performance, and progression of ~ 20 teachers and 380 students.
  • Liaising with outside agencies to access and deliver necessary support.
  • Consultancy work to implement a new pastoral care system in an under-performing school.
  • Planning and leading meetings and training sessions in-house and between outside agencies.



2014 – Present: Engineering Doctorate in Environmental Engineering Newcastle University

The Skills, Technology, Research and Management (STREAM) doctoral training program for the water industry, consists of 8 MSc modules and a 4-year research project. The research focus was the use new microbial source tracking techniques to inform investment decisions when trying to locate and mitigate diffuse sources of pollution.

Relevant Modules:  Environmental Policy and Risk Governance; Hydro-informatics; Asset Management Policy & Strategy; Water & Wastewater Treatment Principles.

Awards: Best student award (2015); Best Presentation (Newcastle Conference, 2016); Presidents Grant (£1200 SfAM, 2016); and Best poster (IOW conference, 2017).

2013 – 2014 MSc Environmental Engineering (Distinction), Newcastle University

Dissertation title: Effect of Feeding Regime on Anaerobic Digestion of Food Waste

Awards:   Best student award (MWH)

2008 – 2010 PGCE Secondary Science (Physics), University of Cumbria

Awards:   Best performing student award

2004 – 2008 BSc (Hon) Outdoor Studies (2:1), University of Lancaster


Professional development and memberships

An active member of: CIWEM (Student); IEMA (Student); IWA (Student); and IOW (Student).

I have undertaken a range of technical and managerial training including: Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (2016); R programming for data science (2017); DNA Sequencing (2015); and Senior Leadership training (2012).


Volunteering, activities, and interests

I enjoy combining my passions for the environment, travel, and adventure through expeditions, climbing, and cycling. My last adventure involved leading a group of young people to Ecuador where they lived with a Shuar tribe and undertook a high altitude trek.

I regularly volunteer as a STEM ambassador. In 2018 I co-coordinated the Pint of Science event at Newcastle, coordinating 5 teams to organise 15 events over 3 nights involving over 30 speakers.