Laura BraunEnvironmental and Water Resource Engineering Section
Supervised by Dr Mike Templeton

Laura completed her undergraduate degree McGill University in Montreal before coming to Imperial College to study for a Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering. She then took a break from academia and worked at an engineering consultancy in London for two years. In the summer of 2016 Laura made the decision to come back to Imperial to undertake a PhD in Environmental Engineering within the CDT.

Why did you decide to undertake a PhD within the CDT in Sustainable Civil Engineering?

Primarily due to the great opportunity that the CDT programme presents. It has provided a great transition from industry back into academia. In the first months of the CDT your week is split between courses, group work and research. All this work in the initial months is done together with your cohort – a group of CDT PhD students from your department that started at the same time. The classes and group project really bond you as a group, and this bond will accompany you throughout your PhD!

Tell us about your research- what, why, how:

My PhD is part of the project WISER -  Water Infrastructure for Schistosomiasis-Endemic Regions. Schistosomiasis is a water borne parasitic disease that affects millions of people, primarily in Africa. It kills an estimated 280,000 people annually and ranks second after malaria as the most common parasitic disease. The first aim of the project is to examine the ability of selected water treatment methods to reduce the number of pathogens in water, to inform how water treatment in endemic areas should be designed. As part of the project I will be conducting field work in Ethiopia and Tanzania, where the disease is endemic.

What impact do you hope your research will have/what do you hope your research will lead on to?

The project will provide the necessary information for designing water treatment systems in areas where Schistosomiasis is most prevalent. Hopefully a reduction in infections will be seen in areas where the water treatment systems are implemented. If successful, I anticipate that the methods developed over the course of my PhD will be used by other organisations (such as NGOs) to treat Schistosomiasis on a global scale.

Does your research involve working with collaborators outside of the Department? If so who and why?

WISER is funded through the EPSRC Global Challenges Research fund. It aims to address the gaps in critical knowledge through a collaboration between water engineers, synthetic biologists, parasitologists, and social scientists. WISER brings together researchers from Imperial College, the Natural History Museum, Addis Ababa University and the National Institute of Medical Research in Tanzania.

What is a typical week working like for you?

Generally, I work at my office at the South Kensington Campus. Currently I am working on a systematic review, which involves researching a vast collection of previously published scientific papers and providing an in-depth summary of the key results. My supervisor and I go for weekly walks in Hyde Park to discuss the progress of the project, and I often attend international conferences and meetings, as many of our collaborators are based abroad.

What do you enjoy most about being part of the CDT in the Department?

The CDT has allowed me to broaden my knowledge in Civil Engineering by taking a wide variety of courses within the department. This has helped me get to know lecturers and academic staff, so if I ever need advice during my PhD I know who to ask.

What advice would you give someone considering joining the CDT?

Apply! However, a PhD is a big commitment so if you are fresh graduate and struggling to decide between doing a PhD or working, then I would suggest considering working for a few years before returning to academia.