A/Prof Mike Manefield joins the School of Chemical Engineering

The School of Chemical Engineering welcomes Associate Professor Mike Manefield on board. Previously from UNSW Faculty of Science, Mike's research involves the development of technologies in bioremediation, biogas production and wastewater treatment. 

Associate Professor Mike Manefield joined the Faculty of Engineering, UNSW Sydney in February 2017 through a dual appointment across the School of Chemical Engineering and the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.  

In his new position, which is grounded in the School of Chemical Engineering, Mike will continue to develop technologies in bioremediation, biogas production and wastewater treatment with an ever-increasing emphasis on engineering applications.Image: Neutral red crystals. A/Prof Manefield's collaboration with Dr Sabrina Beckmann and Biogas Energy led to the discovery that a crystalline form of the synthetic phenazine neutral red can rewire electron flow in microbial communities towards methanogenesis.

In collaboration with Postdoctoral Research Associate (PDRA) Sabrina Beckmann, Mike has been working in the area of biogas production with industry partner Biogas Energy seeking to enhance biological methane production from coal seams.

This work led to the celebrated discovery that a crystalline form of the synthetic phenazine neutral red can rewire electron flow in microbial communities towards methanogenesis. This work involved collaborations across campus in the School of Materials Science and Engineering, the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre and with universities in Germany and the Netherlands.

The biogas portfolio has also involved large-scale field applications with a view to delivering technologies, expertise and know-how to industry. Along with students and researchers Mike made monthly visits over a five year period to the Lithgow State Coal Mine to demonstrate biogas enhancement strategies in the field. The work formed the basis of a successful Australia-India Strategic Research Fund bid in 2016 with field trial in Indian gas fields scheduled for early 2018. This work has also attracted industry attention for biogas applications from renewable resources such as food and agricultural waste.

Mike’s work in the area of wastewater treatment revolves around interactions between microorganisms in high population density scenarios such as in activated sludge flocs and biofilms. Here he brings to bear expertise in secondary metabolite chemistry, bioelectrochemistry and quorum sensing with a view to engineering fit for purpose bacterial biomass and controlling disruptive biomass. This underlies an interest in biomining and life support operations in space.

Working with PDRA Matt Lee, Mike has been dedicated to development of bioremediation technologies since 2005. This research has been conducted through the Environmental Biotechnology CRC and through ARC Linkage Projects with principal industry partner Orica, and also with Dow Chemicals and Coffey. The team has generated bacterial cultures capable of degrading prominent organochlorine pollutants including chlorinated ethenes, ethanes and methanes, including discovery of the world’s first complete chloroform degrading culture. The work also includes extensive field testing brining the team into contact with civil, environmental and chemical engineers. A/Prof Mike Manefield (centre) with his team.

To facilitate the practice of biological remediation approaches in Australia Mike interacts regularly with industry, community groups and government regulators. In 2012 he established an Australian business, Novorem Proprietary Limited that incubated at UNSW for four years before setting up independently in 2016. The company offers molecular diagnostic services, bench tests, bioaugmentation cultures, isotope diagnostics and nutrient formulations supporting the environmental consulting industry practicing bioremediation applications. For this work, his team took home the 2012 UNSW Innovator of the Year Award. He has also received Tall Poppy and Eureka prizes for leadership in environmental science.

More about Associate Professor Mike Manefield 

An environmental scientist (microbiology) by training (UNSW) Associate Professor Mike Manefield is a former FT2 Future Fellow at UNSW (2011-2014) and an August Willhelm Scheer Visiting Professorial Fellow at the Technical University of Munich (2015).  He has also worked as a postdoctoral scientist in the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Oxford, UK, and a visiting fellow at the University of Cambridge, UK (2000), the Technical University of Denmark (2000), the Marine Biotechnology Institute, Japan (2003) and the Helmholtz Zentrum Munich, Germany (2009).

Mike is also a dedicated science communicator having delivered countless addresses to non-specialist audiences and promoting the understanding of academic output amongst the general public through television, print, radio and online media outlets. In 2010 Mike co-founded and currently heads the Joint Academic Microbiology Seminars (JAMS Inc) creating a monthly forum for microbiologists in the Sydney region (University of Sydney, UTS, MQU, WSU, UNSW and CSIRO). He is also the author of a series of early reader children’s books on microbiology giving young imaginations access to the microscopic world that represents our ancient ancestry and our modern day global ecosystem services.

A compulsive collaborator, Mike looks forward to fruitful interactions within the School of Chemical Engineering.

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