Some of the most fundamental, challenging issues of the modern world revolve around energy and its impacts, so I consider it a vital research area. As for Manchester, I'm proud to be a part of the University: it's a top class institution in both research and teaching, and has a particularly strong emphasis on sustainable development.
My original degree was in Biological Sciences, but I moved into sustainable energy during my PhD here at Manchester. In 2014 I took a lectureship in the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science and now deliver the Sustainable Development and Industry module to MEng and MSc students. I’m part of the Sustainable Industrial Systems research group, which has a great mix of PhD students and post-doctoral researchers working on a diverse range of sustainability-related projects.
My research applies a systems approach to the problems presented by the concept of sustainable development. This involves pulling together traditionally disparate fields to assess the environmental, economic and social implications of technological systems. It also means applying life cycle thinking to make sure that we avoid improving the most obvious stage of the life cycle at the expense of other stages or other impacts (e.g. we want to avoid reducing emissions from a power plant if those benefits are outweighed by extra emissions elsewhere in the supply chain). The overall aim is to help to direct the development of new, ‘green’ concepts and ensure that they are as useful and as viable as possible. My work thus far has mainly focused on the impacts of energy systems, from nuclear power to shale gas and renewables, including the potential role that different options might play in future time periods. However, I am also working on biomass feedstocks for chemical processes, wastewater treatment and the food sector.
The idea of sustainable development presents huge challenges, and a lot of those challenges are related to energy: improving the viability and impacts of renewables, developing smart grid technologies, improving battery technology for transport, enabling power grids to balance supply and demand using energy storage techniques… The list goes on. I hope to continue using sustainability assessment to aid in the development of these technologies and to inform policy.