Dr Wenshan Guo is a professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UTS. Her research focuses on innovative wastewater treatment technologies and sustainable water management.
“I was always interested in chemistry and similar subjects, but I became an engineer because of the influence of my parents. They were both lifelong engineers in one of the largest copper smelters in China,” she told create.
Guo studied Chemical Engineering at Kunming University of Science and Technology in China before moving to Sydney for further study. She received her PhD in Environmental Engineering from UTS in 2005. After that, she was awarded a full-time research position as UTS Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow, specialising in membrane-based biotechnology.
“My research focuses on two areas: biological treatment technologies for advanced wastewater treatment and reuse, as well as green technologies for enhanced water, energy and waste management,” she said.
“My achievements include developing eco-friendly, green flocculent for effective membrane fouling control, and also creating functional, sponge-based biocarriers for enhanced nutrient removal.”
Guo’s research has produced a number of patents, including GemFloc – a method for enhancing biological water treatment; a combined biosorbent for heavy metal removal; a filtration device with a movable membrane; and a novel osmosis membrane bioreactor.
“Our group is a pioneer in using sponge as a biocarrier to treat wastewater. We also conducted the first study on employing a sponge bed biofilm reactor for micropollutant removal,” she said.
“We’ve also invented a number of different environmentally-friendly biosorbents, which can remove various pollutants from contaminated wastewater or water, including heavy metals, antibiotics, phosphorus, dyes, etc.
“We have also worked on a project with industry and organisations like Sydney Olympic Park Authority to improve the community’s perception of recycled water, and promoting water reuse for household laundry.”
Climate change action
Guo doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon. Since 2004, she has published three books, 41 book chapters and over 400 journal articles, as well as editing a number of prestigious journals in the environmental engineering field.
For now, her research will continue to focus on green technologies to solve some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues.
“We’re applying green technologies using advanced bioprocesses to recover resources and nutrients like phosphorus, nitrogen and energy from waste,” she said.
Conventional biological processes convert organics to methane biogas. When that’s burned for energy, it generates carbon dioxide and contributes to climate change.
“Currently, we are doing more research on how to control the biological process and then reduce the methane production, and trying to produce more clean biogas like biohydrogen,” Dr Guo said.
“We’re also looking at how to achieve a more sustainable approach during water and waste management — that’s called water-waste-energy nexus.
“This will all eventually contribute to climate change mitigation, so it’s the main direction in which our research is moving.”
The Engineer of the Year 2021 winners will be announced 1 March. To view the full list of finalists, visit our awards website.