Professor Francis de los Reyes

Re-thinking Innovation and Engagement to Address the Global Water and Sanitation Challenge

by Professor Francis L. de los Reyes III (North Carolina State University)

When and Where

The lecture will be held in City and Guilds Building Lecture Theatre 200, Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus on Thursday 15 June 16.00-17.30. The lecture will also be accessible online through YouTube.

More Information

The Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering’s invites you to attend their fifth Dr Theo George Wilson Annual Lecture :

Re-thinking Innovation and Engagement to Address the Global Water and Sanitation Challenge by Professor Francis L. de los Reyes III (North Carolina State University)

Our Dr Theo George Wilson Lecture is the flagship event in our calendar of activities, with the aim of drawing together a diverse audience from across Imperial’s student and staff body as well as from our community of friends and stakeholders. Our objective with the Dr Theo George Wilson Lecture is to inspire and engage the IMSE community by increasing its awareness of wider challenges and activities. For those who can attend in person there will be a drinks reception after the lecture in the City and Guilds foyer just outside of the lecture theatre where you will be able to network with our speaker and other guests.

This lecture is open to all.


Most people don’t think about or don’t want to think about what happens to human waste- fecal material. Where do we poop, where does it go? This is a big, global problem: 2020 WHO/UNICEF data show that 3.6 billion people- 45% of the current global population- don’t use a toilet or latrine where the fecal material is safely treated and disposed. Similarly, access to clean drinking water is not universal. In 2020, 771 million people still lacked even a basic level of drinking water service. Every minute, one child dies from diarrheal diseases, which are strongly associated with poor water and lack of sanitation. More than one billion people in 14 countries suffer from neglected tropical diseases associated with poor water and sanitation, such as helminthiases, trachoma, and schistosomiasis. While disparities to access are evident, and most issues are in rural areas and Sub-Saharan Africa, there are also populations in developed countries without access to water and sanitation.

The lack of success in meeting WaSH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) targets (identified in SDG6) highlights the complexity of the water and sanitation challenges. Technology is just one aspect: the interconnected impacts of culture, economics, policy, and human behavior on water and sanitation issues make the problems complicated. In this talk, key factors in systematically addressing WaSH challenges will be discussed. A focus will be discussing how innovation and community engagement can be harnessed to meet the global WaSH challenge.


Professor Francis de los Reyes is the Glenn E. and Phyllis J. Futrell Distinguished Professor of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering and Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor at North Carolina State University.  He is also Faculty in Microbiology and Biotechnology, and a University Faculty Scholar. He received his BS in Agricultural Engineering (magna cum laude) from the University of the Philippines-Los Baños, MS in Civil Engineering from Iowa State University, and PhD in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

His research focuses on biological processes in waste/wastewater treatment and conversion to resources, environmental biotechnology and microbiology, and global water, sanitation, and health (WaSH) in low- and medium-income countries (LMICs). He has current research collaborations in the Philippines, India, China, South Africa, Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi. He established and currently leads the Global WaSH Faculty cluster at NC State University and is leading a 6-university research center effort in WaSH infrastructure for underserved communities in the US and in LMICs. His research funding has been from the National Science Foundation, Gates Foundation, US Department of Agriculture, Environmental Research and Education Foundation, Water Resources Research Institute, utilities, and wastewater industries.

He is a TED Fellow, a WEF (Water Environment Federation) Fellow, and a Board Certified Environmental Engineer by Eminence by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (AAEES). In 2020, he was named Corresponding Member of the National Academy of Science and Technology of the Philippines. He has received awards for research, teaching, and service from the WEF, the AAEES, the Association of Environmental Engineering Science Professors, NC State University, the Philippine-American Academy of Scientists and Engineers, University of the Philippines, and the Department of Science and Technology of the Philippines. His sanitation projects have won the RELX Group Environmental Challenge Award and the US Patents for Humanity Award. Professor de los Reyes served on the editorial boards of Water Research and the Journal of Environmental Engineering and is currently on the Editorial Boards of SciEnggJ and Transactions of the NAST-PHL. He is on the Board of the non-profit Gawad Kalinga USA, which aims to combat poverty by transforming the lives for the poorest 5 million families in the Philippines.

About The Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering

The Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering (IMSE) is one of Imperial College London’s Global Institutes, drawing on the strength of its four faculties to address some of the grand challenges facing the world today. The Institute’s activities are focused on tackling problems where molecular innovation plays an important role.

If you have any questions about accessibility requirements please email (Leah Adamson IMSE Events and Communications Manager)

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