Microbiology for Environmental Engineering

Module aims

  • To provide an introduction to microbiology relevant to environmental engineering assuming little prior knowledge of the subject.  
  • To discuss fundamental aspects of microorganisms and microbial metabolism, and the behaviour and characteristics of the major microbial groups: bacteria, fungi, protozoa, algae, viruses, and metazoan helminths and their relevance to environmental engineering are described.  
  • To consider applied examples of environmental microbiology, including: environmental nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) transformations and processes, environmental pathogens and quantitative microbial risk assessment, biological wastewater treatment, and microbiological treatment of solid organic wastes and sludges.  
  • To introduce meta-omics techniques and their application in biological treatment processes. 

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing this course unit, students will be able to: 

  • Understand the fundamental principles of microbial growth and development processes and how they are influenced by environmental factors in relation to environmental engineering systems.  
  • Appreciate the role, contribution and significance of different microbial groups and how they may be managed for environmental engineering purposes. 
  • Identify the critical pathways and mechanisms of environmental pathogen transmission and how they may be controlled and managed to reduce water related infectious disease. 
  • Consider the microbiological principles of biological wastewater, solid organic waste and sludge treatment in the engineering of these major processes.  
  • Apply bioinformatics of microbial metabolism to treatment process design and performance efficiency.  

Module syllabus

  • This module provides an introduction to understanding the microbiological fundamentals and applications required by environmental engineers.  
  • The basics of life processes, cells, metabolism, growth and reproduction are considered in the context of environmental engineering systems.  
  • The individual microbial groups are introduced and their characteristics and behaviour are discussed in the context of their role in environmental engineering systems. 
  • Specific attention is given to nutrient transformation processes and the scientific management and control of environmental pathogens.  
  • The module considers the fundamental microbiological principles applied in wastewater and biodegradable waste treatment processes.  
  • Microbiome, and its association with metabolic pathways in treatment processes, will also be introduced.




General Introduction and Introduction to Wastewater Treatment 

Professor S. R. Smith 

Wastewater Treatment – Biological Filters 

Professor S. R. Smith 

Wastewater Treatment – Activated Sludge Process  

Professor S. R. Smith 

Anaerobic Digestion 

Professor S. R. Smith 

Nutrient Transformation Processes 

Professor S. R. Smith 

Environmental Pathogens 

Professor S. R. Smith 

Microbiology Fundamentals – Cells, Metabolism and Growth 

Professor S. R. Smith 

Microbial Groups – Bacteria, Fungi, Algae, Protozoa and Viruses 

Professor S. R. Smith 

Meta-omics Techniques for Environmental Engineering   

Dr Po-Heng (Henry) Lee 

Teaching methods

The course is delivered in the Autumn Term as a suite of nine two-hour lectures.


Information will be provided separately.

Reading list

Module leaders

Professor Stephen Smith