People

Led by Laura Lautz, EMPOWER is a team of over 40 people, including the leadership team, affiliated faculty, staff, graduate students, and external advisors. Browse our full directory below, which includes the leadership team and our graduate student trainees, or check out the information about our affiliated faculty and external advisors.

Photo of Laura K. Lautz

Laura K. Lautz

EMPOWER Program Director and Associate Professor, Department of Earth Sciences

Lautz is a hydrologist who aims to further understand how hydrologic processes influence water quality and movement through watersheds. She is particularly interested in how water moves through paired surface water and groundwater systems, and how nutrients and other solutes are processed and transported by streams. Her broad interest in exchange of water between surface and subsurface environments has led her to work on several interdisciplinary research projects, within which she has used field experiments coupled with computer modeling experiments.…

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Sara Alesi

MS, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Sara is from New Fairfield, CT and studied Environmental Science and Geography at Villanova University. Currently, she is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Environmental Engineering Science and her research interests include hydraulic fracturing and its effect on surface water quality and weathering rates in the Catskill Mountains.

Photo of Emily Baker

Emily Baker

PhD, Earth Sciences

Emily is a PhD student in the Department of Earth Sciences working for Dr. Laura Lautz. Her research is based in a proglacial valley of the Peruvian Andes. Her project uses infrared imagery coupled with in-stream temperature sensors to create an energy balance model of a reach of the stream in this valley. The goal of this research is to improve our understanding of how groundwater enters the stream, since groundwater will become increasingly important throughout the region as the alpine glaciers continue to retreat.…

Photo of Kyle Blaha

Kyle Blaha

MS, Chemistry

Kyle earned his Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from Hiram College in 2015. While there he did research on metal-ion concentrations in local water/soil sources, such as the Penguin exhibit of the nearby zoo. He also spent time researching the steric effects of aldimine synthesis, a project he did his undergraduate capstone on. Kyle joined the Kahan group in 2015.…

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Samuel Caldwell

MS, Earth Sciences

Sam attended Amherst College, where he completed a Bachelor of Arts in Geology and was a three-year starter on the Amherst College football team in the program’s winningest class in its over 130-year history. He completed independent research through the KECK Geology Consortium on the geochemistry of two adjacent volcanic lakes in the Newberry Caldera in Newberry, OR.…

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Nathaniel Chien

MS, Earth Sciences

Nathaniel attended the College of William & Mary where he earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Geology in 2016. His undergraduate research focused on understanding the erosional history of the Appalachian Mountain Range. Now, as a graduate student, he is working with Dr. Laura Lautz in the Department of Earth Sciences. His current research focuses on utilizing groundwater chemistry data and statistical methods to fingerprint sources of contamination in shallow groundwater.

Photo of Megan Daley

Megan Daley

PhD, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Megan is a PhD student in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. She works with Drs. David Chandler and Steve Shaw at ESF. Her research interests are in low-flow stream recession and groundwater hydrology in watersheds in Vermont, New York and Idaho. Megan is from Syracuse originally and received her Env. Engineering BS from Syracuse University in 2011.

Photo of Laura DeMott

Laura DeMott

PhD, Earth Sciences

Laura is a first-year PhD student in the Department of Earth Sciences. Her primary research interests are the sedimentology and geochemistry of non-marine carbonates, and her current research focuses on understanding the geochemical constraints on basin-scale carbonate deposition in lacustrine settings. Laura uses lake sediment cores, outcrop rock samples, and water samples in her research, and used a variety of geochemical techniques to analyze these samples.…

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Charles Driscoll

University Professor of Environmental Systems and Distinguished Professor

Driscoll’s teaching and research interests are in the area of environmental chemistry, biogeochemistry and water quality modeling. He has initiated a number of research projects and used a variety of approaches to study the biogeochemistry of forest, wetland, freshwater and coastal ecosystems, including field investigations, laboratory studies, long-term field measurements, whole-ecosystem manipulation studies, and the development and application of models.…

Photo of Caitlin Eger

Caitlin Eger

PhD, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Caitlin Eger is a first-year doctoral student in Civil and Environmental Engineering, studying with Drs. Charley Driscoll and Dave Chandler. In her research, she examines how adjustments to green infrastructure design affect stormwater runoff quantity and quality. She previously attended Juniata College and the Ohio State University where she studied Environmental Chemistry and Ecological Engineering.…

Photo of Emily Gaub

Emily Gaub

MS, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Emily Gaub received her Bachelors of Science in mathematics and environmental science from Pacific University in 2016. As an undergraduate, her research focused on rook polynomials as well as passive restoration methods for floodplains using local beaver activity. She is currently a masters student in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering working with Dr.…

Photo of Robin Glas

Robin Glas

PhD, Earth Sciences

Robin comes to Syracuse University after a fulfilling career teaching 7th through 12th grade.  She has taught across the natural sciences and field of mathematics to students in the United States and abroad at the American International School in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  She is interested in using geophysical methods to characterize aquifer structure and function, and works in a remote field site in the Peruvian Andes in a region that is greatly affected by climate change and melting glaciers.…

Photo of Kristina Gutchess

Kristina Gutchess

PhD, Earth Sciences

Kristina is a third-year PhD candidate in the Department of Earth Sciences. She previously attended SUNY Cortland where she studied Geology. Her research aims to strengthen the understanding of processes that affect water quality, including the impacts of both humans and naturally occurring processes. She uses modeling and statistical approaches, combined with field and laboratory work to explore the utility of halogens as sensitive tracers for the transport of solutes and the movement of surface water and groundwater.…

Photo of Alexander Johnson

Alexander Johnson

MS, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Alex is originally from Inver Grove Heights, MN. He received his B.S. in Environmental Science from Iowa State University in 2014.  He joined the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Syracuse University in June 2014 where he is currently an MS student with plans to enroll in the PhD program in 2016.  His research interests include understanding the fate and transport of pollutants in urban environments as well as the role of green roofs and other green infrastructure in affecting air and stormwater quality. …

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Chris Johnson

Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Johnson is involved in a number of research projects in the broad area of environmental chemistry. He has ongoing research interests in the fate of trace metals (Pb, Zn, Cu, Ni) in forest soils and landscapes; the effects of clear-cut logging on soils and drainage waters; and the changing acid-base chemistry of soils historically affected by acid rain.…

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Christopher Junium

Assistant Professor, Earth Sciences

Junium is a sedimentary and organic geochemist. His research focuses on the redox evolution of the Earth, specializing in biogeochemical cycling. He uses a range of geochemical tools, but focuses on the stable isotopes of nitrogen, carbon and sulfur, with a particular interest in compound-specific, stable isotope techniques. His research interests span the spectrum of geologic time from the Archean to modern systems.…

Photo of Tara Kahan

Tara Kahan

Assistant Professor, Chemistry

Tara Kahan is an environmental chemist. Her research uses techniques from physical and analytical chemistry to understand reactions in the natural environment. Current research areas include: Investigating the effect of water composition (e.g. saltwater vs. freshwater) on the fate of anthropogenic pollutants; measuring reaction rates at ice surfaces; investigating the role of surfaces such as buildings and roads on chemistry in cities; and monitoring important chemical reactions indoors.…

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Deanna McCay

Program Manager, EMPOWER

In her role as program manager, Deanna McCay oversees program communication, budget administration, and academic program administration for this interdisciplinary NSF-funded program. Prior to her current position, she was an acquisition editor at Syracuse University Press where she edited books in geography, Middle East studies, regional studies, and Native American studies. She earned a BA in biology from Binghamton University, an MS in ecology from The Pennsylvania State University, and a PhD in geography from The University of Georgia.…

Photo of Geoffrey Millard

Geoffrey Millard

PhD, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Geoffrey is a fourth year graduate student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Syracuse University.  He received his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from St. Lawrence University in 2010 and his Master’s from Syracuse University in 2016.  Before attending Syracuse University, Geoffrey was a Research Support Specialist at SUNY-ESF and the Syracuse Center of Excellence where his research focused on nutrient dynamics in a central Adirondack watershed and urban carbon, energy and water fluxes in the city of Syracuse.  …

Photo of Yaskira Mota

Yaskira Mota

MS, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Yaskira attended Syracuse University where she earned her degree in Environmental Engineering. Currently she is pursuing her Master’s in Environmental Engineering and working on data modeling to relate change in thermal stratification of Adirondack lakes with changes in Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) .

Photo of Changcheng Pu

Changcheng Pu

PhD, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Changcheng Pu is a first year PhD student in Civil & Environmental Engineering, working in the Environmental Organic Chemistry Laboratory with Dr. Teng Zeng. Before attending Syracuse University, he received his Bachelor’s degree from Tsinghua University and Master’s degree from Stanford University. His research focuses on understanding the transport and fate of organic contaminants in natural and engineered aquatic systems, by combining controlled laboratory experiments with field based research.…

Photo of Christopher Scholz

Christopher Scholz

Professor, Earth Sciences

Scholz’s research focuses on recovering records of past climate from lake basins, and on the sedimentary basin analysis of extensional systems, with emphasis on lacustrine basins. Current research efforts are concentrated on the large lakes of tropical Africa and the Finger Lakes of Central New York. Lake basins contain some of the highest quality archives of climate change on the continents, and new drill core records from the low-latitude lakes of Africa are revealing new details about the Pleistocene record of climate change.…

Photo of Amanda Schulz

Amanda Schulz

PhD, Earth Sciences

Amanda comes to us from a wide-ranging career in secondary education. She taught a variety of science classes in Central New York and in Tanzania as a Peace Corps volunteer. She completed a M.S. in Watershed Science at Utah State University where she researched the effect hydrologic connectivity has on nitrate concentrations in a headwater stream where nitrogen deposition is high.

Photo of Donald Siegel

Donald Siegel

Department Chair, Earth Sciences

Donald Siegel’s career spans over 40 years of doing research, consulting and teaching on problems related the aqueous geochemistry and hydrogeology of natural and contaminated waters. He earned his BS in Geology from the University of Rhode Island, his MS in Geology at Penn State University, and his PhD in Hydrogeology from the University of Minnesota.…

Photo of John “J.R.” Slosson

John “J.R.” Slosson

MS, Earth Sciences

J.R. received his Bachelor of Arts in economics and Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia. He spent five years practicing law in a prominent New York City law firm before deciding to return to school to pursue a long-held passion for the natural world and the geosciences at Syracuse University. He is studying stream erosion rates in the Argentinian Andes using cosmogenic nuclides under the advisement of professors Greg Hoke and Laura Lautz.

Photo of Alexa Stathis

Alexa Stathis

PhD, Chemistry

Alexa is a third year PhD student in the Department of Chemistry working for Dr. Tara Kahan. Her primary research interests include understanding the environmental fate of atmospheric and aquatic pollutants. Currently, her research focuses on understanding the fate of organic, aromatic pollutants in snow, ice and natural waters. Alexa received her Bachelor’s in chemistry from Stonehill College in 2014.…

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Donald Torrance

Director, Science Communications, and Associate Professor, Broadcast & Digital Journalism

Don Torrance is a documentary filmmaker, journalist and producer whose science journalism has appeared in broadcast, online and print outlets. Over a 30-year career he produced content for PBS; “Science Times,” the New York Times science television news magazine; National Public Radio; Science Magazine; and Nature Conservancy Magazine. He has produced several documentary films and environmental science television programs.…

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Peter Wilcoxen

Professor, Public Administration and International Affairs

Peter J. Wilcoxen is an economist whose research focuses on the design and analysis of environmental and energy policies, especially those connected with national or international measures to address climate change. He is a professor in the Department of Public Administration and International Affairs at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, co-director of the Brookings Climate and Energy Economics Project, and is a member of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board.…

Photo of Yige Yang

Yige Yang

PhD, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Yige Yang is a PhD student in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, working for Dr. Cliff Davidson. She received her M.S. degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Syracuse University and her B.S. in Environmental Science from Sun Yat-sen University, China.  Her research interests include understanding the hydraulic and thermal performance of green roofs and the specific design of green roofs.

Photo of Chenwei “David” Zheng

Chenwei “David” Zheng

PhD, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

David is a PhD student in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering working with Dr. Akih. His research focuses on computational analysis of combustion and equation of state modeling. David uses Monte Carlo Molecular Simulation to analyze the quantities of different ensembles. He is working on the computation of thermodynamic behaviors based on molecular forces in micro-state.…