UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering

Dr Brenda Parker

Dr Brenda Parker


Dept of Biochemical Engineering

Faculty of Engineering Science

Joined UCL
1st Feb 2015

Research summary

Brenda Parker is a Lecturer in Biochemical Engineering at University College London, having taken up the role in 2015. Her current research seeks to address the need for sustainable and scalable platforms for industrial biotechnology and biorefining.

Brenda graduated from UCL with an MEng in Biochemical Engineering, having spent her final year at the California Institute of Technology where she specialised in microbial ecology and environmental biotechnology. Having developed an interest in biocatalysis and directed evolution, Brenda returned to UCL to undertake PhD research focussed on applying these techniques for the synthesis of non-natural amino acids via a BBSRC CASE studentship with Dowpharma.

Following this, Brenda took up a postdoctoral position as a member of the Algal Biotechnology Consortium at the University of Cambridge, funded by Shell. Her role was to investigate biological/biocatalytic methods for downstream processing of microalgae. Initially focussing on enzymatic degradation on algal cell walls, she continues to develop this research, studying algal predators and using biomimicry of their physical and biological mechanisms with the aim of developing novel processing methods.

Before rejoining UCL in her current role, Brenda held a joint appointment on two large EU projects. The Innovation in Crops (InCrops) network based at the University of East Anglia was founded to increase knowledge exchange and transfer between business and academia through consultancy and collaborative R&D. Alongside Dr Beatrix Schlarb-Ridley, Brenda was commissioned to write the UK Roadmap for Algal Technologies in 2013. Brenda continued her algal research at Cambridge as part of the Energetic Algae project, as part of this role she was involved in commissioning a pilot microalgal growth facility at the Botanic Garden in Cambridge. Working with Cambridge Water, Brenda completed early-stage feasibility studies into bioremediation of nitrate-rich waste streams, which subsequently became the focus of pilot scale activities.

Brenda is interested in cross-disciplinary research, in particular to address challenges relating to polluted land and water. She was the founder “Living Designs” forum to bring together scientists, engineers, architects and designers. Brenda has collaborations with the Bartlett School of Architecture and the Slade School of Art on projects relating to microalgae.

Her current research focus is the use of photosynthetic organisms as an IB platform. This is divided into a number of themes: i) the use of ultrascaledown techniques to improve autotrophic  and heterotrophic cultivation systems ii) host strain characterisation and improvement iii)novel harvesting and downstream processing methods iv)biocatalysis and biosynthetic pathway engineering for bioremediation and upgrading of waste.

Teaching summary

Brenda’s current teaching activities are as the course leader for second year undergraduate Design and Professional Skills course encompassing sustainability, manufacturing, safety and ethics for Biochemical Engineers.. As part of the Integrated Engineering Programme at UCL, Brenda coordinates the delivery of four scenario-based learning exercises within the second year. This course enables students to apply their fundamental training in bioprocess-related disciplines to real life challenges such as biofuel production, biobased chemicals or biopharmaceutical manufacture.

Brenda contributes to teaching on undergraduate courses and the MRes in Synthetic Biology courses on aspects of algal biotechnology and biorefining.


University College London
PhD, Biochemical Engineering | 2009
University College London
MEng, Biochemical Engineering | 2004