Mike studied for a BSc in Life Sciences at Liverpool University and specialised in Microbiology within the Botany Department. He was accepted for an MSc in Biodeterioration of Materials at Portsmouth Polytechnic (now Portsmouth University) and was awarded a SERC Studentship. Here he conducted a research project on marine fouling bacteria and how they influence the settlement of algal spores. He was awarded the MSc with Distinction and offered a PhD Studentship to investigate marine bacterial fouling in more depth, sponsored by the Danish anti-fouling paint manufacturer, Hempel's Marine Paints. His Director of Studies was Professor Gareth Jones, a legendary expert in marine fungi.
Following completion of the PhD research, Mike was appointed to a post-doc position at UMIST (now part of the University of Manchester), where he applied his knowledge of microbial adhesion and biofilm formation to the development of a novel, fluidized bed fermenter for the production of ethanol as a biofuel. This was funded by SERC and APV Ltd, a manufacturer of process equipment that wanted a continuous fermenter to pair with their continuous distillation equipment. Mike worked in the Biochemical Engineering group led by the renowned Professor Bernard Atkinson, the father not only of the Biological Rate Equation (an early form of mathematical modelling) but also Biomass Support Particles (BSPs) for the immobilization of microbes for intensification of bioprocesses.
Towards the end of this 3-year contract, Mike successfully applied for a Lectureship in Biotechnology at Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University), where he quickly applied the knowledge gained at UMIST to the design of a fermentation laboratory for biotechnology. His research involved the development of novel processes based on expanded bed technology, a variant of the fluidized bed work. He successfully supervised research students working on the production of enzymes, antibiotics, ethanol and plant secondary metabolites; and, more recently, biological wastewater treatment.
For a three-year period, Mike worked part-time at Zenca Pharmaceuticals (formerly ICI Pharmaceuticals and now Astra Zeneca), in Rob Hockney's fermentation group at Alderley Park. This Industry Fellowship was funded by the Royal Society and Mike worked on a process related to the selection of cells expressing specific surface proteins, using an expanded bed biofilm reactor approach.
In more recent years, he switched focus to biological wastewater treatment and successfully developed a tertiary treatment process for nitrification (ammonia removal) that is currently being commercialised through a university spin-out company, Advanced Bioprocess Development Ltd. This process is based on Expanded Bed Biofilm Reactor (EBBR) technology, for which Mike invented three improvements, each of which has now been granted Patent protection.
Mike was recently promoted to Head of Centre for Postgraduate and Early Career Researchers and has more recently also taken over as Head of Faculty Research Degrees. He continues to run the spin-out company, as Managing Director, and was successful in winning an EU Horizon 2020 SME Instrument Phase 1 grant in 2015, for a 6-month feasibility study of the European market for the EBBR tertiary treatment process. he is currently preparing a Phase 2 application, for construction of full-scale demonstration plants for deployment in different climate areas of Europe.
As a professional microbiologist with an interest in applying microbial metabolism and physiology to important problems, Mike takes great satisfaction in his work on biological wastewater treatment, as a means for protecting the aquatic environment and aquatic organisms - and our water resources. Especially as the nitrification process has been shown to also remove organic matter, suspended solids, bacteria, and oestrogens!