Rita Henderson

Senior Lecturer
Chemical Engineering
Contact details:
(+61 2) 9385 5383

Room 805
School of Chemical Engineering
Kensington Campus

Dr Rita Henderson, Senior Lecturer, School of Chemical Engineering


Research interest

Level 1: I am interested in process engineering that tackles sustainable water and energy supply solutions.

Level 2: My research focuses on the solid-liquid separation of microalgae systems, including coagulation-flocculation, dissolved air flotation and membrane filtration processes, for application in water treatment and harvesting for bioenergy production.

Level 3: Through advanced characterisation of algae systems, process optimisation studies and the development of process monitoring techniques, we improve our understanding of the underlying biological, physical and chemical mechanisms that govern separation processes, enabling more effective, efficient and sustainable options to be established.


Interest in engineering

Why did you get into engineering?

I originally trained as an Environmental Chemist but realised early on that my interest was in the application of chemical principles to solve environmental problems. 

What are your research goals?

My aim is to develop energy efficient, effective and robust processes for the separation of microbial systems, such as microalgae, for application in the water or energy industries.

What do people not understand about what you do?

While microalgae are traditionally viewed as a nuisance in wastewater treatment plants, the future could see active promotion of their presence to provide advanced treatment of the water, before they are then harvested as a bioenergy source. 


Lectures/Courses taught

Coming soon…



Number currently in lab: 1 Research Associate, 4 PhD students, a number of undergraduate students

Number graduated: Coming soon…

Student Projects:

Yulia Shutova (APAI): Monitoring organic matter in drinking water systems using fluorescence spectroscopy. ARC Linkage LP100200259.

Barun Karna (APA): Advanced Characterisation of Organic Matter in Desalination Pre-treatment. National Centre of Excellence for Desalination in Australia.

Xiang Li (APA): Advanced characterisation of dissolved organic nitrogen in drinking water sources. APA LP 110100548

Andrea Gonzalez (APA): Optimising algal floc structure for more efficient separation.


Looking for students for projects related to:

Optimisation of a novel dissolved air flotation process for algae separation using specifically designed polymers

Optimising operation of microalgae membrane photobioreactors

Characterisation of cyanobacteria and their metabolites by fluorescence spectroscopy

Characterisation of taste and odour compounds produced by cyanobacteria


Professional Organisations and Consulting positions


2010 to date: Member of the Water Research Australia (WRA) Education Committee

2007 to date: Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Water Science Forum (WSF) Committee

Member of the International Water Association (IWA)

Member of the Australian Water Association (AWA)

Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry


Awards, Grants, Patents

Awards and Honours

2012: One of nine recipients of the AIPS NSW Young Tall Poppy Science Award

2010: Recipient of the IWA Young Water Professional (YWP) Award 2010-2012

2010: Chair of the Organising Committee for the 5th IWA International Young Water Professional conference

2009: Awarded ARC Post-Doctoral Industry Fellowship (APDI)


Current Research Grants

Henderson, R., Stuetz, R., Newcombe, G., Chow, C., Hobson, P., Lin, T., Bowling, L., Roux, A., Vigneswaran, B., Blackbeard., Halliwell, D. On-line monitoring of cyanobacteria to predict coagulant doses and powdered activated carbon application in water treatment. ARC Linkage LP130100033. $740k

Joll, C., Charrois, J., Linge, K., Henderson, R., Hrudey, S. Advanced water treatment technologies to minimise nitrogenous disinfection by-products in drinking water: understanding the role of organic nitrogen. ARC Linkage LP110100548. $680k

Henderson, R., Baker, A., Bridgeman, J. Monitoring organic matter in drinking water systems using fluorescence spectroscopy: improved early warning, process optimisation and water quality. ARC Linkage LP100200259. $294k

Le-Clech, P., Chen, V., Henderson, R., Charrois, J., Craig, K. Optimising low pressure membrane pretreatment for desalination. National Centre of Excellence for Desalination in Australia. $378k

Henderson, R., Stuetz, R., Bulmus, V., Peirson, W., Newcombe, G., Jefferson, B. Optimising dissolved air flotation (DAF) for algae removal by bubble modification in drinking water and advanced wastewater systems. ARC Linkage LP0990189. $621k



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)