Fields of Research (FoR)Water Treatment Processes, Water Quality Engineering, Membrane and Separation Technologies, Environmental Technologies, Environmental Biotechnology
Associate Professor Rita Henderson is an academic in the School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW. She joined the School as a Senior Lecturer towards the end of 2013 after spending 6 years with the UNSW Water Research Centre in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Rita works in both teaching (40%) and research (40%) where her interests are in water supply and biotechnology. She leads the Algae & Organic Matter Laboratory, which is...view more
Associate Professor Rita Henderson is an academic in the School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW. She joined the School as a Senior Lecturer towards the end of 2013 after spending 6 years with the UNSW Water Research Centre in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Rita works in both teaching (40%) and research (40%) where her interests are in water supply and biotechnology. She leads the Algae & Organic Matter Laboratory, which is affiliated with the UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science and Technology and is Program Leader of the Nuisance and Harmful Algae Science Practice Partnership. In November 2019, Rita was nominated and appointed to the role of Board Director of Water Research Australia, this follows engagement with their Education Program (now Research Leadership Program) first as Committee Member and then from 2016 as Chair. Rita is also a Member of the International Water Association (IWA), the Australian Water Association (AWA) and a Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (MRSC). Rita is the Editor in Chief of the IWA's new H2Open Journal.
Beyond her research, Rita is a passionate equity and diversity advocate. Having led a UNSW Faculty of Engineering project to enhance gender equity, she has since contributed on the Faculty’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the UNSW Athena SWAN pilot Self-Assessment Team. She is currently Chair of the Faculty's Gender equity Working Group. She is also a School Champion for Humanitarian Engineering.
Current Research Grants
Prof Gregory Leslie ; A/Prof Rita Henderson ; Prof Ashish Sharma ; Prof Kenneth Grattan ; Prof Tong Sun ; Dr Peter Jarvis ; Dr Heriberto Bustamante ; Dr Peter Cox ; Dr Bala Vigneswaran. Adapting catchment management monitoring and potable water treatment to climate change. ARC Linkage LP160100620.
A/Prof Rita Henderson ; Prof Patrick Cullen ; Dr Stuart Prescott ; Prof Gregory Leslie. Algal control using multi-functional, cold plasma activated microbubbles. ARC Discovery DP200102195
Graduate Certificate in University Learning and Teacing, UNSW (2018)
PhD in Water Sciences, Centre for Water Science (now Cranfield Water Science Institute), Cranfield University, UK (Awarded 2008)
MSc in Water Pollution Control Technology, Cranfield University, UK (2004)
MChem (1H) in Environmental Chemistry with a Year in Industry, University of Edinburgh, UK (2002)
2016: AWA NSW Kamal Fernando Mentoring Award 2016
2015: Finalist for the Australia Museum 2015 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science
2012: AIPS NSW Young Tall Poppy Science Award
2010: IWA Young Water Professional (YWP) Award 2010-2012
2010: Chair of the Organising Committee for the 5th IWA International Young Water Professional conference
2009: ARC Post-Doctoral Industry Fellowship (APDI)
My Research Activities
My research interests are in the design, optimisation and monitoring of solid-liquid separation processes designed for microalgae and organic matter in the context of both water treatment and quality and biotechnology. I lead the Algae & Organic Matter Laboratory (AOM Lab) which has four main research themes that explore these research areas: natural organic matter; nuisance and harmful algae; algae harvesting; and resource recovery. Each of these themes are advanced through either one of both of the following: 1) the development and optimisation of physico-chemical separation processes, including coagulation-flocculation, oxidation, flotation, depth filtration and membrane systems; and 2) the application of advanced characterisation techniques to determine the biological and physicochemical properties of algal cells and organic matter. The latter has led to our development of key monitoring protocols for these processes providing early warning strategies for water quality events.
My research in this area has led to the publication of >70 peer reviewed journal articles. I have been awarded $6.5M AUD in research funding ($3.5M as lead) which includes five ARC Linkage grants and one ARC Discovery grant. My research is predominantly undertaken in collaboration with the Australian water industry with partners including Melbourne Water, SA Water, Seqwater and Sydney Water among others.
My Research Supervision
Areas of supervision
Research in the AOM Lab is split across four major themes including: natural organic matter; nuisance and harmful algae; algae harvesting and resource recovery.
Please see: http://www.aom.unsw.edu.au/Research/Opportunities for specific opportunities in my research team.
For details on how to apply for Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarships, please see:
Current student projects:
Anthony Agostino: Characterization of aquatic natural organic matter and the link to water treatability (2018 to date)
Zijun Zhang: Algae membrane bioreactor - performance and harvesting using transverse vibrating membrane (2016 to date)
Zainab Mustafa: Investigation of membrane fouling in aged membranes (2018 to date)
Rafael Paulino: Assessing granular activated carbon capacity for algal taste and odour removal: Development of a predictive tool
Daisy Chu: Optimisation and modelling of oxidation processes in drinking water treatment plants for algae treatment
Previous student projects:
Sara Imran Khan (APA/WaterRA Scholarship): Characterisation of fluorescence spectra from algae and cyanobacteria. ARC LP130100033 (2015-2019)
Florence Choo (APA / WaterRA Scholarship / Nancy Millis Scholarship): Powdered activated carbon and coagulant dosing control during algal blooms using fluorometers. ARC LP130100033 (2015-2019)
Yunlong Luo (APA): Optimising operation of microalgae membrane photobioreactors (2015-2019)
Andrea Gonzalez Torres (APA / WaterRA Scholarship): Optimising algal floc structure for more efficient separation (2013-2018)
Narasinga Rao Hanumanth Rao (APA): Application of hydrophobically modified polymers in PosiDAF. LP0990189 (2014-2018)
Tong Gui: Application of Iron Sand to the Harvesting and Processing of Microalgae
Xiang Li (APA): Advanced characterisation of dissolved organic nitrogen in drinking water sources impacted by algae and the potential formation of nitrogenous disinfection by-products. LP110100548 (2012-2017)
Barun Lal Karna: Advanced characterisation techniques to assess seawater organic matter removal by dissolved air flotation (DAF). (2011-2014)
Yulia Shutova (APA/WaterRA Scholarship): Monitoring of organic matter in drinking water treatment systems using fluorescence spectroscopy. LP100200259 (2011-2014)
Russell Yap (ARC/WaterRA Scholarship): Optimising dissolved air flotation (DAF) for algae removal by bubble modification. LP0990189 (2010-2013)
Sachin Singh (ARC): Fluorescence as a method assessing membrane integrity. LP0776347 (2008-2013)
Adam Hambly (ARC): Fluorescence as a portable tool for cross-connection detection within dual reticulation systems. LP0776347 (2008-2013)
Term 1: CEIC4001 Process Design Project: Team mentor
Term 2: CEIC3004 Process Equipment Design: Course co-ordinator and lecturer
Term 3: ENGG1000 Design and Innovation: Project co-ordinator