Personal profile


Helen holds a Royal Academy of Engineering/EPSRC Fellowship investigating the detection of waterborne pathogens. Prior to joining Heriot-Watt she held this Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh. She obtained her PhD entitled "Techniques to manipulate the environment around and inside single cells" from Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden in 2008. This interdisciplinary project developed a miniaturised fluidic device for studying biological signalling.


Between her Phd and starting the Fellowship Helen worked as the Knowledge Transfer Officer for the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences, brokering collaborations between mathematicians and industry as well as other academic disciplines. She was also the Life Sciences Programme Tutor at the International Study Centre at Heriot-Watt. Helen has also worked on a biosensors project in the Textor Research Group at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and for Mitsubishi Electric AB on an MSc thesis project entitled "Future Display Technologies".


Summer 2012 she has been awarded a British Science Association Media Fellowship and will be spending 3 weeks at the Scotsman as a science journalist.

Research interests

Novel Materials for Sample Processing


When monitoring for waterborne pathogens, sample processing is a key step to enrich and isolate the pathogen of interest from the huge amount of particulate matter in water. In this area, we are currently working with protozoan pathogens and studying their interactions with new polymer materials. We aim to understand the factors controlling pathogen adhesion and explore applications of high performing polymers.


(in collaboration with Professor Mark Bradley, University of Edinburgh. Funded by University of Edinburgh)



Detection of Waterborne Pathogens using Biosensors


This project is investigating different biosensor technologies for the detection of pathogens. In the initial stages we have characterised the surface modifications necessary for pathogen recognition. Additionally, we are working on detection using microfluidic cantilevers. 


(in collaboration with Dr Will Shu, IB3) 



Detection of Waterborne Pathogens using Raman Spectroscopy


This project is investigating the use of Raman spectroscopy for the detection of pathogens, to identify species and viability.


(in collaboration with Dr Andy Downes, University of Edinburgh)



Microfluidic Technologies for Pathogen Enrichment 


Brian Miller is working on this project investigating microfluidics for the concentration and separation of protozoan pathogens. A recent Heriot-Watt Crucible award has also enabled collaboration with modellers and other potential end-users of microfluidic separation technologies.


(Funded by: BBSRC Industrial Case Award with Scottish Water; Royal Society Research Grant; Heriot-Watt Crucible.)



Influence of nanoparticles on protozoan pathogens


The potential toxicity of nanoparticles on protozoan pathogens has not been previously investigated. This project aims to study the impact of different nanomaterials on the pathogen Cryptosporidium.


(in collaboration with Dr Pamela Cameron (Moredun) and Dr Birgit Gaiser (Heriot-Watt). Funded by Heriot-Watt Crucible. )



Aquavalens: Protecting the health of Europeans by improving methods for the detection of pathogens in drinking water and water used in food preparation 


This large-scale collaborative project has 38 partners and aims to develop detection platforms, based on molecular methods, for a wide range of waterborne pathogens. Start date: early 2013. 


(Funded by the EU)

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action


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