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New professor

Published 3 August 2011

Dr Huw Taylor has been conferred with the title Professor of Microbial Ecology by the University of Brighton's Professional Board in recognition of his sustained academic leadership and international professional standing in the field of water pollution and waterborne disease control.

Professor Taylor was until recently a reader in public health microbiology. He teaches undergraduate geography, environmental science, biology and civil engineering undergraduate students, and is course leader for the university's Water and Environmental Management MSc.

Since 1998 he has lead the Environment and Public Health Research Unit, which has pioneered the development and application of novel microbial tools for water pollution control in Europe, the USA, Brazil and Africa.

He received his first degree, a BSc in Microbiology, from the University of Cardiff in 1985. Having developed an early interest in waterborne disease control issues in developing countries, Professor Taylor went on to study for a PhD in public health microbiology from the University of Liverpool. His early postdoctoral research was undertaken at the University of Leeds Department of Civil Engineering with Professor Duncan Mara. These early research activities involved extended fieldwork in Portugal and Brazil, where he gained a degree of fluency in Portuguese. In the early nineties Professor Taylor became a Lecturer at the University of Manchester Medical School and Assistant Director of the Northern School of Public Health.

Professor Taylor joined the University of Brighton's Department of Civil Engineering in 1994 as a senior lecturer. He was promoted to principal lecturer in 1999 and to reader in 2005. In 1998 he established the Environment and Public Health Research Unit (EPHRU), which currently supports the work of three members of academic staff, three research officers, and six PhD students. EPHRU has gained an international reputation for its research into aspects of pathogen ecology, significantly in the area of antibiotic resistance transmission, in collaboration with the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and the University of Barcelona. More recently the group has taken an international lead in the development of novel methods to distinguish sources of faecal pollution of water and Professor Taylor currently leads a €2.9 million EU project in collaboration with partners in the UK and France.

In recent years Professor Taylor has again had the chance to focus on his first interest of tackling waterborne disease issues in developing countries. He has developed a research and teaching collaboration with the Federal University of Viçosa in Brazil, and with Dr James Ebdon, has delivered training courses on microbial source tracking to Brazilian engineering and science students. Earlier this year, the humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières invited Professor Taylor to advise their engineers in Haiti on the design and operation of a new wastewater treatment system at their Port-au-Prince cholera treatment centre, which they had based on the system he developed in Brazil at the outset of his career. In July this year he worked with colleagues of the University of Malawi to investigate the risks associated with drinking water from shallow wells in Malawi, in support of the country's attempts to provide safe drinking water to its rural inhabitants. All these activities have benefitted his students, not just through a steady supply of relevant case study material for lectures and seminars, but though exciting opportunities for students to contribute to international research - as part of their MSc dissertation studies, students Adam Glenister joined Huw in Brazil in March, and Armando Mendoza joined the recent Malawi fieldwork.

Professor Taylor sees a very bright future for teaching and research in his chosen field at the University of Brighton. "Both undergraduate and masters' students now benefit from a very eclectic mix of staff experience and expertise, brought together under the umbrella of the School of Environment and Technology's new Aquatic Research Centre" he says.

"As a school we have shown that our research can have significant impact on human wellbeing, and our active involvement in tackling global waterborne disease problems has considerable appeal to students wishing to develop a career in this fascinating and important field."

Professor Andrew Lloyd, dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, said: "I am delighted that Dr Taylor has been awarded a professorial title; this recognises his significant contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the field of environmental microbiology and the global impact of his research in addressing public health challenges. In the last few years Huw has developed an international reputation for his important work in third world countries with NCOs helping to ensure that these communities have access to clean water. Huw is not only infectiously enthusiastic about ensuring that his research benefits society but recognises the importance of effective public engagement and communication in raising public awareness of science. He is a credit to this university as both a scientist and scientific communicator."

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Professor Huw Taylor

Professor Huw Taylor