Published: 27 October 2015

New Head of Department will drive bio-energy research at Surrey

Professor Sai Gu brings an international reputation for clean energy research to his new role as Head of Department of Chemical and Process Engineering.

Previously Head of Cranfield University’s Centre for Bioenergy and Resource Management, Professor Gu took up his position as Head of Department of Chemical and Process Engineering at Surrey in September.

He has a strong vision for the Department, planning to make the University a hub for innovative research in chemical engineering, almost doubling his Department’s size over the next few years with a dozen researchers coming into the Department in the coming months.

Professor Gu is currently leading a number of Research Council-funded projects – worth around £2.5 million – which focus on the development of advanced bio-energy technologies and Carbon Capture Storage (CCS).

He explains, “We are in a wave of energy revolution, and chemical engineers are playing pivotal roles in tackling environmental problems through clean energy technologies. I am looking forward to building our reputation in this important area by working with our colleagues in other departments and centres across the University.”

In addition to raising Surrey’s research profile for chemical engineering in the UK, Professor Gu intends to build on its excellent reputation for teaching and learning. One of the longest-established departments of its kind, the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering consistently ranks very highly for student satisfaction, quality of teaching and employment prospects.

Reflecting emerging fields in chemical engineering, he would like to broaden the scope of teaching and research, encouraging students to embrace new areas related to the environment, healthcare and bio-medicine.  Surrey’s new Engineering for Health facility, which looks to address key challenges in future healthcare, is one area where he foresees valuable collaboration.

“This is a great time for chemical engineering and at Surrey we’ve seen the number of undergraduates arriving doubling from a few years ago. Rather than simply training students for employment in traditional roles, I want to inspire them to be more entrepreneurial, taking advantage of the many different opportunities opening up in this field.

“In addition, I’d like to incorporate a greater IT skills component into our programmes. These skills will be vital as we enter the era of the Internet of Things (when it will be possible to operate comprehensive chemical plants with your tablets), and chemical engineering graduates who possess strong IT skills will be very employable in the future.”

Professor Gu will also focus on building on the Department’s strong links with key industry partners both to encourage more research collaborations and to increase student placement and graduate recruitment opportunities.

Professor Gu obtained a PhD in University of Nottingham and continued his research as a Post-doctoral Researcher in University of Cambridge. He moved into academia with roles at Aston University, the University of Southampton and Cranfield University. He has a long track record of coordinating large collaborative projects with international partners and has successfully won over £10 million in grants from EPSRC (the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), EU, Innovate UK and industry.


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