Professor Rita Henderson

Professor Rita Henderson

Postgraduate Education

Graduate Certificate in University Learning and Teacing, UNSW (2018)

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)

School of Chemical Engineering

Professor Rita Henderson is an academic in the School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW, and Associate Dean (Equity & Diversity) at UNSW Engineering. Her research interests are on water quality and treatment and algal biotechnology and she leads the Algal and Organic Matter (AOM) Lab, working closely with the Australian water industry. She is an Associate Editor for Water Research, Editor-In-Chief for the IWA H2Open Journal and is on the AWWA Water Science Editorial Board.

(+61 2) 9385 5383
Room 522, Hilmer Building School of Chemical Engineering
  • Journal articles | 2015
    Pivokonsky M; Naceradska J; Kopecka I; Baresova M; Jefferson B; Li X; Henderson RK, 2015, 'The impact of algogenic organic matter on water treatment plant operation and water quality: A review', Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology, pp. 1 - 45,
    Journal articles | 2012
    Lin Y; Munroe PR; Joseph S; Henderson RK, 2012, 'Migration of dissolved organic carbon in biochars and biochar-mineral complexes', Pesquisa Agropecuaria Brasileira, vol. 47, pp. 677 - 686,
    Journal articles | 2012
    Lin Y; Munroe PR; Joseph S; Henderson RK; Ziolkowski A, 2012, 'Water extractable organic carbon in untreated and chemical treated biochars', Chemosphere, vol. 87, pp. 151 - 157,

Current Research Grants

Prof Gregory Leslie ; A/Prof Rita Henderson ; Prof Ashish Sharma ; Prof Kenneth Grattan ; Prof Tong Sun ; Dr Peter Jarvis ; Dr Heriberto Bustamante ; Dr Peter Cox ; Dr Bala Vigneswaran. Adapting catchment management monitoring and potable water treatment to climate change. ARC Linkage LP160100620.

A/Prof Rita Henderson ; Prof Patrick Cullen ; Dr Stuart Prescott ; Prof Gregory Leslie. Algal control using multi-functional, cold plasma activated microbubbles. ARC Discovery DP200102195

2016: AWA NSW Kamal Fernando Mentoring Award 2016

2015: Finalist for the Australia Museum 2015 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science

2012:  AIPS NSW Young Tall Poppy Science Award

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

2009: ARC Post-Doctoral Industry Fellowship (APDI)

My research interests are in the design, optimisation and monitoring of solid-liquid separation processes designed for microalgae and organic matter in the context of both water treatment and quality and biotechnology. I lead the Algae & Organic Matter Laboratory (AOM Lab) which has four main research themes that explore these research areas: natural organic matter; nuisance and harmful algae; algae harvesting; and resource recovery. Each of these themes are advanced through either one of both of the following: 1) the development and optimisation of physico-chemical separation processes, including coagulation-flocculation, oxidation, flotation, depth filtration and membrane systems; and 2) the application of advanced characterisation techniques to determine the biological and physicochemical properties of algal cells and organic matter. The latter has led to our development of key monitoring protocols for these processes providing early warning strategies for water quality events.

My research in this area has led to the publication of >80 peer reviewed journal articles. I have been awarded $6.9M AUD in research funding ($3.5M as lead) which includes five ARC Linkage grants and one ARC Discovery grant. My research is predominantly undertaken in collaboration with the Australian water industry with partners including Melbourne Water, SA Water, Seqwater and Sydney Water among others. 

My Research Supervision

Current student projects:

Anthony Agostino: Characterization of aquatic natural organic matter and the link to water treatability (2018 to date)

Rafael Paulino: Assessing granular activated carbon capacity for algal taste and odour removal: Development of a predictive tool (2019 to date)

Daisy Chu: Optimisation and modelling of oxidation processes in drinking water treatment plants for algae treatment (2020 to date)

Siti Suhailah Rosli: Microalgae for simultaneous enhancement of nutrient-rich wastewater bioremediation process and biodiesel production (2020 to date)

Taye Kazeem: Micro-nano bubbles (MNB) in water treatment (2020- to date)

Angelina: Application of cold plasma activated bubbles (CPAB) for algal treatment (2021 to date)


Previous student projects:


Zainab Mustafa: Investigation of membrane fouling in aged membranes (2018-2022)

Zijun Zhang: Algae membrane bioreactor - performance and harvesting using transverse vibrating membrane (2016-2021)

Sara Imran Khan (APA/WaterRA Scholarship): Characterisation of fluorescence spectra from algae and cyanobacteria. ARC LP130100033 (2015-2019)

Florence Choo (APA / WaterRA Scholarship / Nancy Millis Scholarship): Powdered activated carbon and coagulant dosing control during algal blooms using fluorometers. ARC LP130100033 (2015-2019)

Yunlong Luo (APA): Optimising operation of microalgae membrane photobioreactors (2015-2019)

Andrea Gonzalez Torres (APA / WaterRA Scholarship): Optimising algal floc structure for more efficient separation (2013-2018)

Narasinga Rao Hanumanth Rao (APA): Application of hydrophobically modified polymers in PosiDAF. LP0990189 (2014-2018)

Tong Gui: Application of Iron Sand to the Harvesting and Processing of Microalgae

Xiang Li (APA): Advanced characterisation of dissolved organic nitrogen in drinking water sources impacted by algae and the potential formation of nitrogenous disinfection by-products. LP110100548 (2012-2017)

Barun Lal Karna: Advanced characterisation techniques to assess seawater organic matter removal by dissolved air flotation (DAF). (2011-2014)

Yulia Shutova (APA/WaterRA Scholarship): Monitoring of organic matter in drinking water treatment systems using fluorescence spectroscopy. LP100200259 (2011-2014)

Russell Yap (ARC/WaterRA Scholarship): Optimising dissolved air flotation (DAF) for algae removal by bubble modification. LP0990189 (2010-2013)

Sachin Singh (ARC): Fluorescence as a method assessing membrane integrity. LP0776347 (2008-2013)

Adam Hambly (ARC): Fluorescence as a portable tool for cross-connection detection within dual reticulation systems. LP0776347 (2008-2013)