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Dr John Williams

Reader in Environmental Technology

John Williams


After completing a BSc in Resources Science at Kingston, I came to Portsmouth Polytechnic as a PhD student in 1988 to study the use of reed beds for sewage treatment in the UK and Egypt. I then stayed in Portsmouth. During this time I have had a range of roles, becoming a post-doc, then Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Principal Lecturer.  In 2014 I became Reader in Environmental Technology.

I mainly teach water engineering related subjects, but have also taught mathematics, sustainable design and research methods. I have a general interest in sewage treatment and have worked on international research projects in Egypt, Brazil, Colombia and Greece. I have also made study trips to countries in Africa and Asia, with visits to sewage works always top of the “must see” list.

I am also the Research Coordinator for the School of Civil Engineering and Surveying and so deal with PhD admissions, manage the flow of information to and from committees and try to facilitate the development of the School’s research.

Research Interests

My PhD on constructed wetlands focussed on the removal of pathogenic microorganisms and the activity of nitrogen cycling bacteria in constructed wetlands. My research interest in sewage treatment has continued with various studies of novel wastewater treatment systems. This has extended to considering the fate of compounds, such as phthalates and pharmaceuticals, in wastewater treatment.

My interest in the use of wetlands, ponds and plants in engineered systems has led me to study the management of pollution from urban and road runoff in Sustainable Drainage systems. I have also undertaken projects examining the accumulation mechanisms of fat deposits in sewers and the potential of wetland plants to phytoremediate contaminated sediments.

My main research expertise is in developing the understanding of the treatment mechanisms in engineered systems to improve design and operation. This is through a combination of skills in environmental science, hydrology and analysis of complex multivariate data sets, often in collaboration with chemists and microbiologists. I also have an interest in Sustainability Assessment and environmental decision making.

I have supervised 21 successful PhD students (8 as first supervisor), published 25 journal papers, made numerous conference presentations and secured over £1m of external income as Principal Investigator.

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