Knowledge for a sustainable world

PhD, MSc, PGCert, FHEA, MRSC

Dr Birthe Nielsen joined the University in 2007 after completing a Ph.D. from University of Portsmouth in the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Science; the Ph.D. work was directed to provide an understanding of the structure-activity relationships of polymeric material in regard to their ability to prevent increasingly common oral diseases, and to develop novel anti-hypersensitivity/anti-microbial agents.  Prior to this, she completed a 5-year degree (MSc) in Biotechnology from AAU in Denmark. She is a member of Algal Biotechnology Research Group at the University of Greenwich where she works in collaboration with academic and non-academic partners on the commercial exploration of seaweed.

Dr Nielsen’s current primary interest is in potential exploitation of the genus Sargassum for biofuel and other products. Sargassum is a broad genus or family of brown seaweed consisting of around 300 species Sargassum muticum is an invasive species to the coasts of the British Isles. Commercial exploration could encourage Sargassum harvesting and control. Sargassum has a naturally high content of antioxidants, carotenoids, sulphated compounds, halogenated compounds and phenols, making this genus also a potential source of a range of pharmaceutically relevant materials.  In addition, the urgent need to replace fossil fuels has seen macroalgae advancing as a potential feedstock for anaerobic digestion (AD). The natural methane productivity (dry weight per hectare) of seaweeds is greater than in many terrestrial plant systems.

Dr Nielsen works with anaerobic digestion and is interested in the effect of halogenated compounds on methane productivity. As part of their defence systems, seaweeds, unlike terrestrial plants, produce a range of halogenated secondary metabolites, especially chlorinated and brominated compounds. Some orders of brown seaweeds also accumulate iodine, up to 1.2% of their dry weight. Halogenated hydrocarbons have moderate to high toxicities and the group is assessing the effect of these compounds on methane potential.

Dr Nielsen have also worked extensively on developing mass spectrometry methods for the detection of salivary peptide ions – namely antimicrobial peptides and hormones – applied in athletes to assess stress responses addressing the need for a diagnostic and prognostic rapid technique to detect these markers in a non-invasive matrix (DOI: 10.1039/c7ay01676j, DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2013.850594)

Dr Nielsen teaches on the following:

  • BIOC-1025 Bioanalytical Techniques
  • ENVI-1164 Energy, Life and Resources
  • BIOT-1012 Research Methods and Data Management
  • CHEM-1066 Analytical Chemistry
  • MOLE-1006 Applied Molecular Biology
  • BIOT-1004 Research Methods
  • BIOT-1010 Biotechnology research projects
  • BIOT-1011 Bioinformatics
  • CHEM-1108 Advanced Instrumental Analysis
  • CHEM-1067 Instrumental Analysis
  • OMED-0104 Pharmaceutical Analysis and Testing
  • CHEM-0018 Projects (chemical Sciences)
  • University Alliance DTA Studentships - Greater value, lower emission and more energy –  refining seaweed. To tackle why seaweed have a lower practical methane potential compared to the theoretical yield.
  • INTERREG V 2 Seas project, Valgorize, Valorisation of seaweed and microalgae as food on the European market.
  • Novel application of brown seaweed as an antibacterial coating for interdental drug delivery funded by the High Value Chemicals from Plants Network (HVfCP) and Mirage Health Group.
  • Road Map for the use of the Seaweed Sargassum muticum in High Value Bioactive Compound Discovery funded by HVfCP and IOTA Phamaceuticals

Dr Nielsen is currently supervising the following PhD students and projects:

1st supervisor

  • Enhancing Biogas Production from Anaerobic Digestion of Seaweed - Supattra Maneein
  • Effect of iodine on methanogenesis - Md Mahmud Al Farid

2nd Supervisor

  • Synthetic biology potential of flavonoid biosynthesis pathway genes - Arwa Ahmed Moawad Selim
  • Recently completed (1st supervisor):
  • Culturing and processing of Dunaliella for enrichment of enzymatic antioxidants – Uttam K Roy
  • 2020, Nielsen, B.V.; Maneein, S.; Al Farid, M.M.; Milledge, J.J. The Effects of Halogenated Compounds on the Anaerobic Digestion of Macroalgae. Fermentation, 6. DOI: 10.3390/fermentation6030085
  • 2020, Uttam K. Roy, Birthe V. Nielsen, John J. Milledge,
  • Effect of post-harvest conditions on antioxidant enzyme activity in Dunaliella tertiolecta biomass,
  • Biocatalysis and Agricultural Biotechnology, Volume 27. DOI: 10.1016/j.bcab.2020.101661
  • 2020, Supattra Maneein, John J. Milledge, Patricia J. Harvey, Birthe V. Nielsen, Methane production from Sargassum muticum: effects of seasonality and of freshwater washes, Energy and Built Environment. DOI: 10.1016/j.enbenv.2020.06.011
  • 2019, Milledge, J.J.; Nielsen, B.V.; Maneein, S.; Harvey, P.J. A Brief Review of Anaerobic Digestion of Algae for Bioenergy. Energies, 12, 1166. DOI: 10.3390/en12061166
  • 2018, Milledge, J.J.; Nielsen, B.V.; Harvey, P.J. The inhibition of anaerobic digestion by model phenolic compounds representative of those from Sargassum muticum. J. Appl. Phycol. DOI: 10.1007/s10811-018-1512-4
  • 2018, Milledge, J.; Nielsen, B.; Sadek, M.; Harvey, P. Effect of Freshwater Washing Pretreatment on Sargassum muticum as a Feedstock for Biogas Production. Energies, 11, 1771.
  • 2018, Maneein, S.; Milledge, J.J.; Nielsen, B.V.; Harvey, P.J. A Review of Seaweed Pre-Treatment Methods for Enhanced Biofuel Production by Anaerobic Digestion or Fermentation. Fermentation, 4, 100.
  • Programme Leader BSc Pharmaceutical Sciences (incl. EXT)
  • Programme Leader BSc Pharmaceutical Sciences with Degree Apprenticeship
  • Link tutor Pharmacy MSA University Egypt
  • Guest Editor Journal Applied Sciences (ISSN 2076-3417, IF 2.474): Special Issue "Advances in Algal Biomass Applications".
  • Royal Society of Chemistry: Committee member of the Analytical Division in the South East Region with the remit to promote chemistry and analytical chemistry. Regional Steering Group Committee member.
  • Member of Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences, British Mass Spectrometry Society, Algal UK, Anaerobic Digestion Network and professional membership of the Institute of Leadership & Management.

Community Activities                                   

  • University Trust School Governor
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