Priscilla Baker

Presentation - Priscilla Baker is the South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI) Chair in Analytical Systems and Processes for Priority and Emerging Contaminants (ASPPEC) and a Senior Professor of Chemistry at the University of Western Cape (UWC). She was elected  Fellow of the African Academy of Science (FAAS, 2018) and Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) of UK in 2019. Prof Baker is an analytical-electrochemist and has more than 15 years of experience in the development of organic and inorganic smart materials (polymer blends, hydrogels, Schiff base metal complexes) for application in sensors, electroanalysis and energy-generation systems. She is the co-leader of SensorLab™ (UWC Sensor Research Laboratories) since 2004, and the research centre’s team comprised 8 Academic staff,  postdoctoral fellows and 40+ postgraduate students.  Baker currently serves as the director of the South African Systems Analysis Centre (SASAC, November 2017-present), former Department of Chemistry HoD, (UWC, 2017-2018), chairperson of the South African Chemical Institute Electrochemistry Chapter (2006-2018) and current Regional Representative (Africa): International Society of Electrochemistry. Baker was announced Winner of the Department of Science and Technology, Distinguished Woman Scientist award in the category Physical and Engineering Sciences (2014) and in the same year she was awarded the Deputy Vice Chancellor’s Young researcher Award, by the University of the Western Cape.

Research project

Current approaches to water screening for emerging and persistent chemical residues requires considerable effort, with high associated costs, sample processing and lengthy laboratory centred analysis times. Determination of such species, particularly toxic residues within an aquatic system coupled with the identification of the agent itself can lead to elucidation of the source and enable root cause analysis. Achieving this goal on site or in real time is a multidisciplinary scientific challenge. Current environmental monitoring strategies rely on dissolved oxygen, turbidity and pH on deployment units from which data can be relayed remotely. Integration of multifunctional sensor systems onto existing aquatic sensor platforms, has the potential to enrich data generated and relay vital early warning information for protection of aquatic and human life. Such high-value information on the toxic state of watercourses immediately after a pollution incident is an exciting scientific challenge which will impact upon this, most valuable of our planets resources with subsequent impact on food chain integrity and human health.  Electrochemical technologies have reached the state where they are not only comparable with other technologies in terms of cost but also are more efficient, more compact and easy to implement in the field. Electrochemistry is a clean, versatile and powerful tool for the detection of emerging and priority pollutants in water and other environmental matrices.