Professor Mike Templeton has recently been given a global outreach award by the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors.
Mike Templeton, Professor of Public Health Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Imperial College London was recently awarded a global outreach award from the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP), a US-based organisation run by academic peers. His work focuses on water and sanitation, mostly in developing countries, and their related public health challenges.
This award is definitely a joint effort - I couldn’t do any of my research without excellent students and postdocs. Professor Michael Templeton
The prestigious award recognises his outstanding contributions and leadership as a faculty member through involvement in environmental engineering and science outreach activities to the global community. The award is named after Steven K. Dentel, a Professor for 30 years at the University of Delaware in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering who demonstrated continued and sustained service to the profession and a dedication to global outreach. Professor Templeton is the first person to have won the award based outside of the US.
Professor Templeton was commended for his high-impact research, educational and outreach activities over the past 15 years, which have contributed to addressing a range of public health challenges, including the development of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) strategies to prevent schistosomiasis infections in Tanzania and Ethiopia, minimising nitrate pollution from on-site sanitation in West Africa and Nepal, and the promotion of in situ worm-composing toilets for low-income households globally.
Tackling parasitic disease
Professor Templeton says that the common thread connecting all his work is collaboration with international partners, from a variety of disciplines. The WISER Project (Water Infrastructure for Schistosomiasis-Endemic Regions) led by Professor Templeton ran from May 2017 to April 2021 with partners in Ethiopia and Tanzania and aimed to address the parasitic disease schistosomiasis with water infrastructure and monitoring. Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia or ‘snail fever’, is a parasitic disease affecting an estimated 258 million people in 78 countries worldwide and killing an estimated 280,000 people annually. It ranks only second to malaria as the most common parasitic disease.
Control of the disease focuses on a drug treatment, praziquantel, however rapid re-infection is common as people are re-exposed to contaminated water. While education campaigns about the risk of exposure to contaminated water and improved water supply and sanitation should help, there is very limited information available regarding the effectiveness of water treatment processes at removing or inactivating the infective stages of the parasite.
The WISER research programme aimed to bring together water engineers, synthetic biologists, parasitologists and social scientists in the UK, Ethiopia and Tanzania and develop new knowledge to guide the design of sustainable water infrastructure for affected regions.
Discussing the importance of international collaboration, Professor Templeton said: “It brings the local context to the problems and means that research can be co-designed and conducted together. A lot of these problems are not necessarily ones we face in the UK and to really understand them you need to be working with people for whom these are very real problems.
“There are also opportunities for capacity building and that goes both ways. I learn a lot from colleagues overseas and there are also opportunities for us to enhance their practices in terms of research and education.”
Speaking about receiving the award, Professor Templeton added: “I hope that I can inspire students through my work, like Steve Dentel did. This award is definitely a joint effort - I couldn’t do any of my research without excellent students and postdocs.”
Support for outreach activities
Laura Braun, who recently completed an MSc and PhD at Imperial supervised by Professor Templeton and is now a Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “Something that always stood out about him was his support for outreach activities – both within the research community and with the public. Outreach was especially a big part of the WISER project that he led together with institutions in Ethiopia and Tanzania. He organised dissemination meetings with participants ranging from community members to researchers to government representatives. This really taught me the importance of communicating and disseminating research. It also demonstrated how much more of an impact your research can have, for example influencing policy.
“Mike also encouraged his students to participate in STEM-based outreach activities such as presentations about clean water and sanitation at schools. These activities are so crucial for inspiring the next generation, and I’m really happy that Mike was always supportive of taking up these opportunities.”
Professor Templeton is co-chair of Imperial’s Global Development Hub, which was launched in April 2021 by Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Amina J. Mohammed, aims to maximise the impact of Imperial’s world-leading research, education and innovation to help the world address the challenges society will face over the next 50 years.
Article text (excluding photos or graphics) © Imperial College London.
Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or © Imperial College London.
Leave a comment
Your comment may be published, displaying your name as you provide it, unless you request otherwise. Your contact details will never be published.