On Wednesday, March 29, 2017, the Southern Ontario Water Consortium (SOWC) and GE Water & Process Technologies (GE), along with the City of Guelph and Lystek International Inc. (Lystek), hosted a “graduate student / industry engagement day” for graduate students and post-docs at the Guelph Wastewater Facility to meet with company representatives, share their research topics and gain some valuable career insights.

A panel of experts, made up of sector leaders and technical experts listened and provided feedback as students pitched their research topics in 3-minute talks. This was followed by a panel discussion to provide insight into the transition from academia to industry. Panelists shared their personal stories and anecdotes, and advice for students.

“Take your time” urged Henk Koops, GE’s Global Technology Leader for UF/MBR, encouraging anyone interested in a career in industry research and development to complete a PhD and consider working in another country to complete a post-doctoral project.  Those who know they are interested in an engineering role, “should go through the GE Water Engineer Program!” said Koops.  The program recruits top talent into the GE commissioning group for a comprehensive 3 year program which includes plenty of practical hands-on experience.

Comprehensive immersion in a company is just one example of making the most of early career experience, which was encouraged by GE’s Manager of Human Resources, Filomena Armeni. “Organizations are getting flatter, with fewer high level roles” Armeni noted, “so think and move laterally, seek out the kinds of experience you want to have.”

GE and Lystek then both presented on their research and development related to biosolids with a focus on specific technology, technology development, commercial challenges of technology adoption, trends and opportunities.

Henk Koops (Global Technology Leader, GE Water & Process Technologies) delivering the GE presentation. Copyright: SOWC

The day successfully concluded with a tour of Lystek’s biosolids processing technology which is installed at the Guelph Wastewater Facility producing a nutrient rich biofertilizer product, and a pilot installation of GE’s advanced anaerobic digestion technology at the SOWC Guelph Wastewater Pilot Facility.

The event was the third and final in a series of engagement events that were hosted by SOWC through a new program funded by the Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science (OMRIS) through the province’s Business Growth Initiative. The funding has allowed SOWC to support a new, targeted focus on a niche cluster where Ontario has significant opportunity for global leadership: recovering resources and generating value from wastewater.

This series of engagement events provided an opportunity for graduate (Masters and Doctorate) and Post-Doctoral students to have direct exposure to the latest in cutting-edge topics and technology related to capturing value from biosolids, and enhanced their understanding of the expert capacity in this field in Ontario. The funding from OMRIS was further leveraged by SOWC to provide seven students who participated in the events with the chance to attend the 2017 WEAO Technical Symposium & OPCEA Exhibition from April 2-4 in Ottawa with all expenses paid.

“I’ve gained valuable insight on real world challenges in the water space through both Collision Days and the WEAO conference” said Ryerson Masters candidate Sahra Shojaei. “I’m grateful for this entire learning experience through SOWC as I believe the academic setting alone would not have equipped me with the array of valuable technical feedback from seasoned professionals, and lessons on the latest emerging technologies and innovations applied by industries.”