Scientist named as a Nation's Lifesaver



A new campaign celebrating the societal impact made by UK universities has selected a Heriot-Watt professor as one of its ambassadors.

Professor Bhaskar Sen Gupta is one of 100 individuals or groups who have been specially chosen to take part in the Nation's Lifesavers campaign, led by Universities UK, for his life-changing contribution to health and wellbeing.

In 2017, Professor Gupta launched the world's first chemical and waste-free water treatment plant to protect communities in Bangladesh from being exposed to high levels of arsenic in water supplies.

It's been a great honour for me to be able to commission the world's first arsenic treatment plant in the Comilla District of Bangladesh having no carbon or chemical footprint.

Professor Bhaskar Sen Gupta

The academic developed the solar-powered, fully autonomous treatment plant, which is now ensuring a safe supply to 200 school children and serves an additional 800 members of the local community.

The project was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) with logistical support and assets provided by the Bangladesh Green Energy Foundation (BGEF).

More than 137 million people from 70 global countries are exposed daily to arsenic in their drinking water. Arsenic is highly toxic and is responsible for a variety of cancers in affected communities.

In the Indian subcontinent, nearly 70 million people are chronically exposed to high levels of arsenic in rice, milk, vegetables and drinking water. This is one of the reasons why it takes many years to identify communities affected by arsenic.

Professor Gupta said: “It's been a great honour for me to be able to commission the world's first arsenic treatment plant in the Comilla District of Bangladesh having no carbon or chemical footprint. This autonomous solar-powered plant has been the only source of a safe water supply to a school and surrounding community. I want to also take this opportunity to acknowledge the support of my colleagues at Heriot-Watt University and the staff of BGEF Bangladesh in this life-saving initiative."

The Nation's Lifesavers are battling diseases, tackling inequality, helping new parents and children enjoy the best start in life and supporting older people. In Mental Health Awareness Week, their stories show a huge contribution to improving our mental health and wellbeing.

The campaign aims to highlight how the value of universities stretches far beyond the educational opportunities and economic impact they provide. Whether you attended university or not, the likelihood is that everyone has directly or indirectly benefited from medical advances or health and wellbeing developments pioneered at university. 

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, said: “When people think of lifesavers they understandably tend to focus on the dedication and skill of our doctors, nurses, carers, and paramedics – many of whom are trained at universities. Every day, up and down the country, universities are also working on innovations to transform and save lives. Research taking place in universities is finding solutions to so many of the health and wellbeing issues we care about and the causes that matter.

“By proudly working in partnership with charities, the NHS and healthcare organisations, universities are responsible for some of our biggest health breakthroughs and in revolutionising the delivery of care.

“This campaign is a chance to bring to life the wonderful and often unexpected work going on every day in our universities and to celebrate some of the people working to make a life-changing difference to us all.”

Professor Gupta's inclusion in this campaign comes as Heriot-Watt celebrates its Year of Health. 

In 2019, the University will host a calendar of engagements that spans schools, communities, businesses and government. Throughout the year, the campaign will highlight the university's research and the ground-breaking discoveries that are helping drive innovations in healthcare, diagnosis and treatment.