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Prof Sue Harrison

SARChI Research Chair in Bioprocess Engineering
Director, Centre for Bioprocess Engineering Research (CeBER)
Department of Chemical Engineering
University of Cape Town
P/Bag Rondebosch 7701

T: + 27 (0)21 650 2518
F: + 27 (0)21 650 5501



BSc(Chemistry & Microbiology), UCT, 1983; BSc Hons (Microbiology), UCT, 1984; PhD Cambridge University 1990


Sue has some 30 years’ experience in research in bioprocess engineering, gained in the industrial and academic arenas. She joined the academic staff of the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cape Town in 1991. Since then 95 MSc and PhD students have been awarded research degrees under her supervision. She regularly authors peer reviewed scientific papers (50 peer-reviewed journal papers over the review period 2011 - 2016) and presents research at international and national conferences (62 at international conferences from 2011 to 2016). Her research in biohydrometallurgy centres on metal extraction from sulphidic minerals through tank and heap bioleaching of low grade and complex ores and electronic waste, biological sulphate reduction for AMD treatment, AMD prevention and value from waste through the circular economy, industrial ecology and maximizing of resource productivity approaches. She collaborates actively with researchers at the University of Mumbai, Cambridge University, Berkeley, Exeter and Imperial College London and with companies in South Africa and abroad.

Sue has taught actively into the chemical engineering and biotechnology programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate levels at the Universities of Cape Town and Cambridge. She was awarded the South African DST Research Chair in Bioprocess Engineering, with effect from 2008. She received the DST’s “Distinguished Woman Scientist” award in 2008.


2008-present DST Research Professor in Bioprocess Engineering
2001-present Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town, Director, Centre for Bioprocess Engineering Research, University of Cape Town
2011 – Aug 2015 Deputy Dean: Research and Postgraduate Studies, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, University of Cape Town
2016 Visiting professor, Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter, UK
2010 Visiting professor, Imperial College London, UK
2009 – 5/2013 Board member, Technology Innovation Agency of South Africa
2004 Senior Zeneca Fellow, Dept Chemical Engineering, University of Cambridge, UK Visiting Fellow Commoner, Trinity College, Cambridge University, UK
2003 – 2013 Board member, Cape Biotechnology Trust. Chair of Board since 2005
2002 - 200 Project director, new Chemical Engineering building project, University of Cape Town

Research Interests

Biohydrometallurgy, mineral bioleaching in tank and heap systems, bioleaching of electronic waste, prevention of AMD formation, biological sulphate reduction for AMD remediation, valorization of waste for the circular economy and industrial ecology, microbial community dynamics, microbial biofilms and community structure, microbial response to stress, bio-energy

Selected Projects

  • Prevention of AMD drainage formation through risk removal
  • Heap bioleaching of agglomerated copper ores
  • Tank bioleaching of gold-bearing ores
  • Minewater remediation, including SCN- and CN- destruction and biological sulphate reduction
  • Waste valorization
  • Wastewater biorefineries
  • Assessing sustainability in bioprocess systems and enhancing sustainable processes through renewable energy provision


Selected Publications

Nemati, M, Lowenadler, J, Harrison S T L (2000). Particle effects in bioleaching of pyrite by acidophilic thermophile Sulfolobus metallicus. Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol., 53, 173 – 179.

Nemati M and Harrison S T L (2000). A comparative study on thermophilic and mesophilic biooxidation of ferrous iron. Minerals Engineering, 13 (1), 19 - 24.

Moosa S, Nemati M and Harrison STL (2002). A kinetic study on anaerobic reduction of sulphate, Part I: Effect of sulphate concentration. Chemical Engineering Science, 57, 2773-2780.

Moosa S, Nemati M and Harrison S T L. (2005). A kinetic study on anaerobic reduction of sulphate. Part II: Incorporation of temperature effects in the kinetic model. Chemical Engineering Science, 60, 3517-3524. [Impact factor 1.629].

Kazadi Mbamba K., Harrison S.T.L., Franzidis J.-P. and Broadhurst J. (2012). Mitigating acid rock drainage risk while recovering low-sulfur coal from ultrafine colliery wastes using froth flotation. Minerals Engineering 29, 13-21. Doi:10.1016/j.mineng.2012.02.001. [Impact factor 1.352]

Oyekola O. O., Harrison S. T. L. and van Hille R. P. (2012). Effect of culture conditions on the competitive interaction between lactate oxidisers and fermenters in a biological sulphate reduction system. Bioresource Technology 104, 616-621. doi:10.1016/jbiortech.2011.11.052. [Impact factor: 4.98].

Bryan C.G., Davis-Belmar C., van Wyk N., Dew D., Rautenbach G. and Harrison S.T.L. (2012). The effect of CO2 availability on the growth , iron oxidation and CO2 fixation rates of pure cultures of Leptospirillum ferriphilum and Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans. Biotechnology and Bioengineering 109(7), 1693-1703. Doi: 10.1002/bit.24453. [Impact factor: 3.946]Govender E, Harrison, STL, Bryan C. (2012). Modification of the ferric chloride assay for the spectrophotometric determination of ferric and total iron in acidic solutions containing high concentrations of copper. Minerals Engineering 35, 46-48. [Impact factor 1.352]

Jones G.C., van Hille R.P. and Harrison S.T.L. (2012). Reactive oxygen species generated in the presence of fine pyrite particles and their implication in thermophilic minerals bioleaching. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 97(6), 2735-2742. DOI: 10.1007/s00253-012-4116-y. [Impact factor 3.689].

Ghorbani Y., Petersen J., Harrison S.T.L., Becker M. and Franzidis J.-P. (2012). Investigation of the bioleaching of coarse sphalerite ore particles in saturated leach reactors: I. Experimental study. Hydrometallurgy 129-130, 161-171. [Impact factor 2.169].Kazadi Mbamba K., Franzidis J.-P, Harrison S.T.L. and Broadhurst J. (2013). Flotation of coal and sulphur from South African ultrafine colliery wastes. SAIMM Journal, 113(5), 399-405.

Tupikina O.V., Minnaar S.H., van Hille R.P., van Wyk N., Rautenbach G.F., Dew D. and Harrison S.T.L. (2013). Determining the effect of acid stress on the persistence and growth of thermophilic microbial species after mesophilic colonisation of low grade ore in a heap leach environment. Minerals Engineering 53, 152-159. [Impact factor 1.352].

Kantor R.S., van Zyl A.W., van Hille R.P., Thomas B.C., Harrison S.T.L. and Banfield J. (2015). Bioreactor microbial ecosystems for thiocyanate and cyanide degradation unravelled with genome-resolved metagenomics. Environmental Microbiology, 17(12), 4929-4941. Doi: 10.1111/1462.2920.12936. [Impact factor 5.843]. Fagan M.A., Ngoma I.E., Chiume R.A., Minnaar S., Sederman A.J., Johns M.J. and Harrison S.T.L. (2014). MRI and gravimetric studies of hydrology in drip irrigated heaps and its effect on the propagation of bioleaching micro-organisms. Hydrometallurgy 150, 210-221. [Impact factor 2.169].

Govender E., Kotsiopoulos A., Bryan C.G. and Harrison S.T.L. (2014). Modelling microbial transport in simulated low grade heap bioleaching systems: the transport model. Hydrometallurgy 150, 299-307. [Impact factor 2.169].

Govender E., Bryan C.G. and Harrison S.T.L. (2015). A novel experimental system for the study of microbial ecology and mineral leaching within a simulated agglomerate-scale heap bioleaching system. Biochemical Engineering Journal 95, 86-97. Doi.10.1016/j.bej.2014.12.001. [Impact factor 2.645].

Bryan C.G., Watkin E.L., McCredden T.J., Wong Z.R., Harrison S.T.L. and Kaksonen A.H. (2015). The use of pyrite as a source of lixiviant in the bioleaching of electronic waste. Hydrometallurgy 152, 33-43. Doi.10.1016/j.hydromet.2014.12.004. [Impact factor 2.027].

Van Zyl A.W., Huddy R.J., Harrison S.T.L. and van Hille R.P. (2015). Evaluation of the ASTER™ process in the presence of suspended solids. Minerals Engineering 76, 72-80. [Impact factor 1.352].

Ngoma I.E. and Harrison S.T.L.(2015). Investigating the effect of acid stress on selected mesophilic micro-organisms implicated in bioleaching. Minerals Engineering 75, 6-13. [Impact factor 1.352].

Van Hille R.P., Dawson E., Edward C. and Harrison S.T.L.(2015). Effect of thiocyanate on BIOX® organisms: Inhibition and adaptation. Minerals Engineering 75, 110-115. [Impact factor 1.352].Kotsiopoulos A and Harrison S.T.L. (2016). Application of fine desulfurised coal tailings as a neutralising barrier in the prevention of acid rock drainage. Hydrometallurgy (accepted).

Govender-Opitz E., Kotsiopoulos A and Harrison S.T.L. (2016). Insight into solute and microbial transport in heap (bio)leaching systems using residence time distribution. Hydrometallurgy (accepted).

Contribution to Minerals to Metals initiative

Integrating biohydrometallurgy, bioprocessing and bioremediation into mineral processing in search of sustainable minerals processing. Maximising resource productivity through the valorization of low grade and complex resources as well as waste resources, towards a circular economy. Postgraduate student training and supervision. Driving of inter- and transdisciplinary initiatives. Contribution to the transdisciplinary M.Phil programme through conceptualization, teaching and supervision.