INRS Doctoral Student Receives CAWQ’s Philip H. Jones Award

November 15, 2019

( update : September 17, 2020 )


INRS student Tiwari Bhagyashree received the Philip H. Jones Award for the second best oral presentation at the 33rd Eastern Canadian Symposium on Water Quality Research held by the Canadian Association on Water Quality (CAWQ). The symposium took place on October 25 and 26 at Concordia University in Montréal.

This award, created in memory of Philip H. Jones (one of the founders of CAWQ and a driving force in the organization’s development), recognizes the “best oral presentation” of a student research project. 
Tiwari Bhagyashree is a doctoral student in water sciences under the supervision of Professor Patrick Drogui and co-supervised by Professor Rajeshwar Dayal Tyagi at INRS. Her presentation, entitled “Treatment of hospital wastewater in membrane bioreactor—profiling and role of microbiome,” examined the role of the microbial community in hospital wastewater treatment. This filtration process uses microorganisms to remove various pharmaceutical pollutants. 
“I was pleasantly surprised to receive this award,” said Bhagyashree. “It’s a field with important potential in the fight against environmental pollution.”
Innovative Research
Hospital wastewater is known to have a high concentration of pharmaceutical compounds. These contaminants have to be degraded by microorganisms to keep them from getting into the environment. However, pharmaceuticals are designed to inhibit or kill microorganisms such as those used in a membrane bioreactor. 
In her research, Bhagyashree used wastewater samples from Québec City hospitals. She examined the existence and elimination of 12 pharmaceutical products, including caffeine and ibuprofen (a commonly used anti-inflammatory). 
“We wanted to determine whether the pharmaceutical compounds altered the composition of the microbial community inside the membrane bioreactor and whether this had an impact on wastewater treatment performance,” explained Bhagyashree. “The idea was also to assess whether the microbial community, once modified, could degrade these contaminants.”
In her research, she analyzed the community of bacteria present inside the membrane bioreactor. Her study is one of the first to look at microeukaryotes, like fungi and algae, which have significant potential for degrading pharmaceutical compounds in hospital wastewater treatment. “We have observed that long-term exposure to pharmaceutical compounds in wastewater promotes the proliferation of microbial communities capable of tolerating or degrading these products, such as pathogens or microorganisms carrying antibiotic resistance genes,” explained Tiwari Bhagyashree, who will be defending her thesis in January 2020.
Tiwari Bhagyashree’s award comes with a $200 cash prize and a one-year membership in CAWQ and the International Water Association (IWA), as well as a subscription to the Water Quality Research Journal of Canada and Water 21 (an IWA publication). She also received a formal invitation from the CAWQ president to submit an article for peer review and eventual publication in the Water Quality Research Journal of Canada.
Congratulations to Tiwari Bhagyashree on this wonderful distinction!