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 by UBC Okanagan 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,” said Phil Barker, vice principal and associate vice president of 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,” said Marc Fortin, vice president of research partnerships at NSERC. “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.

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Pictured: Engineering Professor Cigdem Eskicioglu. Image Credit: UBC Okanagan.

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

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,” said 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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