Watch the recording of this event

This event took place on Wednesday 31 March 2021.

We are delighted to welcome you to the Inaugural Professorial Lecture of Professor Sean Comber. 

Metals, phosphates and pharmaceuticals entering our rivers and seas can have considerable consequences for nature and human health, requiring an assessment of their risks and regulation to reduce or mitigate their effects. But these measures can also have a cost on society and industries. Brexit now requires the UK Government to consider what regulations could, or should, be introduced to regulate the pollution, and how far do we go to protect the environment?

Sean Comber, Professor of Environmental Chemistry, explores whether these pollutants pose any cause for concern and how water quality holds up against the environmental standards currently in place. He reflects on the impact of the South West’s mining history and the threshold for how much metal can enter our waterways before they cause a toxicity problem.

Inversely, Sean questions whether the significant costs predicted to reduce phosphate levels are actually good value for money, and highlights the challenges facing regulation of pharmaceuticals, which exacerbate the risk of antibiotic resistance hotspots in the environment.  

Sean’s expertise spans more than 30 years, starting as a consultant for the water industry; he remains a consultant and brings this extensive industry knowledge, alongside established partnerships, to his portfolio of applied research. His work has had considerable impact, with his work on quantifying the sources of chemicals to water underpinning the UK’s decision to invest £4 billion to reduce chemical pollution entering UK rivers. The model not only accurately predicts the origin and significance of a pollutant but can also run scenarios to identify the most cost-effective solutions for improving water quality.  

The event will conclude with a Q&A session where Sean will answer questions submitted by attendees.

You are welcome to join us for the University of Plymouth’s Inaugural Professorial Lecture series, which provide a milestone event in a professorial career. Through these we can promote and celebrate the academic reputation and achievements within their research. 

Need-to-know 
This event is open to the public and free to attend. It will be hosted online and you will receive a joining link via email after you have registered and before the event begins. Please join the call via the link provided 5 minutes before the event begins. 

Providing sound science to protect our waters 

"There is no place in the UK that is truly pristine anymore. We need to develop science-based water quality standards that take into account the full fate and impacts of organic chemicals on water environments."

Sean Comber, Professor of Environmental Chemistry, has applied research and industry expertise spanning more than 30 years, including as a consultant for the water industry, that has real-world impacts on improving the UK's water quality.

Read the Academic Spotlight on Sean's journey so far

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We are integrating our multidisciplinary expertise in marine and maritime research, education and innovation to train new scientists, engineers, policy-makers, artists, technicians and business managers of the future.

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We bring researchers together with businesses, community groups and individuals to develop cutting-edge research and innovative approaches that build resilience to global challenges.

We link diverse research areas across the University including science, engineering, arts, humanities, health and business.

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Biogeochemistry Research Centre

Researching the environmental behaviour, fate and impact of nutrients, metals and pharmaceuticals in terrestrial, atmospheric and aquatic systems.

The Biogeochemistry Research Centre comprises expert researchers and instrumentation, with acknowledged international leaders in organic geochemistry and environmental analytical chemistry and a strong focus on marine science and current and past ecosystems and climates.

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Public Research Programme

The year-long programme of public events showcases our research across a spectrum of topics. It presents our annual Research Festival, the Inaugural Professorial Lecture series, the Public Research Lecture series, the new Christmas Research Lecture, and selected lectures featuring keynote speakers throughout the year.

All are welcome to join us as our academics open the door to the intriguing world of research, inviting you to learn more about the fascinating work taking place across the University.

Have a look at our upcoming events taking place in 2021