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 Chair, 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 earned a B.S. in Environmental Science and a B.A. in Geography from Villanova University in 2014. After completing her undergraduate degrees, Sara worked in an environmental chemistry lab in Connecticut, where she analyzed soil and water samples for a variety of parameters. Wanting to see the bigger scope of her work, Sara joined the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department at Syracuse University in August 2015 and began working with Dr.…

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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.…

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Ruta Basijokaite

PhD, Earth Sciences

Ruta is PhD student in the Department of Earth Sciences working with Dr. Christa Kelleher. She earned her MS in Environmental Engineering from Syracuse University in 2018. Her research uses hydrologic modeling to better understand how Californian watersheds respond to climate change. In particular, her aim is to analyze how strong seasonal and annual weather shifts may attribute to the shifting importance of key watershed processes.…

Photo of Julio Beltran

Julio Beltran

MS, Earth Sciences

Julio Beltran is a first-year M.S. student in the Department of Earth Sciences, working with Dr. Laura Lautz on urban hydrology and water quality. He received his B.S. degree in Geology from New Mexico State University in 2017. Prior to coming to Syracuse, he worked for a year in the petroleum industry in the Permian Basin as a wellsite geologist evaluating rocks for hydrocarbons.…

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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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Crystal Burgess

MS, Earth Sciences

Crystal earned her Bachelor of Arts in Geology from Alfred University in 2016 with a minor in Environmental Studies. Prior to her graduate studies, Crystal interned at SU on Project SWIFT developing an interannual time series of naturally occurring methane concentrations in the advance of unconventional gas production in the southern tier of New York.…

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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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Amanda Campbell

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 of hydrologic connectivity on nitrate concentrations in a headwater stream where nitrogen deposition is high.…

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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.…

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Megan Daley

PhD, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Megan is from Syracuse originally and received a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from SU in 2011. She spent three years at the engineering firm Arcadis after graduation before coming back to the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering to work with Drs. David Chandler and Steve Shaw (SUNY ESF) in 2014. Her research interests are in low-flow stream recession and groundwater hydrology in small watersheds in the northeast.…

Photo of Laura DeMott

Laura DeMott

PhD, Earth Sciences

Laura is a PhD student in the Department of Earth Sciences, under the advisement of Dr. Chris Scholz. Her research interests are the sedimentology and geochemistry of non-marine carbonate rocks, and her doctoral research focuses on depositional processes of these rocks in rift lakes of the Basin and Range. She is also passionate about geoscience education and outreach, and has been an instructor for the GeoFORCE Texas high school outreach program.…

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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. Caitlin is interested in urban ecological design, retrofitting of existing infrastructure networks, and urban chemical cycles.…

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Emily Gaub

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. Laura Condon.…

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 Quercus Hamlin

Quercus Hamlin

MS, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Quercus is an MS student and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He earned his BS in GIS from Michigan State University in 2017. At MSU, he developed high resolution maps of nitrogen and phosphorous loading to the landscape across the Great Lakes Basin. He is currently working with Dr.…

Photo of Alaina Hickey

Alaina Hickey

MS, Earth Sciences

Alaina is a first-year M.S. student in the Earth Sciences Department working with Christopher Junium as part of the Geobiology, Astrobiology, Paleoclimate and Paleoceanography (GAPP) Research Group. She completed her undergraduate career at S.U., earning a B.A. in Earth Science with a focus in Environmental Science and minors in Biology and Psychology. Alaina’s research interests have always been in sedimentary and organic geochemistry.…

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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. …

Photo of Chris Johnson

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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Gaired Jordan

M.S., Civil & Environmental Engineering

Gaired earned his Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering from Cornell University in 2016. Following that, he worked for Union County, North Carolina as a water resource engineer. His primary role in that position was to direct water conservation efforts for the county.  In fall 2018, he began study with David Chandler in Syracuse University’s Civil & Environmental Engineering program to further his understanding of storm water management and green infrastructure. …

Photo of Christopher Junium

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 Christa Kelleher

Christa Kelleher

Assistant Professor

Kellaher’s research primarily relies on computational simulations of models ranging from simple, conceptual representations to fully distributed and physically based frameworks to interrogate the relationships between water quality and quantity, and how this varies across different landscapes.

 

Photo of Amanda Klaben

Amanda Klaben

M.S., Civil & Environmental Engineering

Mandy is a first year M.S. student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department working with Dr. Charley Driscoll. She earned her B.S. in Environmental Science Systems from Le Moyne College in May of 2018.  Her previous research has included soil dynamics in the forests of Costa Rica, and study of the moraines of Icelandic glaciers, and her current research interests include green infrastructure, renewable energy, and harmful algal blooms. …

Photo of Nicholas LoRusso

Nicholas LoRusso

PhD, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Nicholas is from Syracuse, NY and earned a B.S. in Environmental Science with a minor in Chemistry, from SUNY Environmental Science & Forestry.  He joined Syracuse University’s Civil & Environmental Engineering Department in May 2016 as a laboratory technician.  He’s led the collection and chemical analysis of stream and soil water at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest under the direction of Dr.…

Photo of Laura Markley

Laura Markley

PhD, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Laura is a PhD student in the Civil & Environmental Engineering department working with Dr. Charles Driscoll. She earned her M.S. degree in Earth and Environmental Science from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA and her B.S. in Environmental Earth Science from Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic, CT. Her previous research includes the sources and spatial distribution of arsenic in groundwater wells in Lebanon, CT and the application of the magnetic goethite/hematite (G/H) ratio to soils and paleosols in the mid-Atlantic region to determine paleoprecipitation.…

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Qasim Mehdi

PhD, Public Administration

Qasim is pursuing his PhD in Public Administration with concentration in Environmental Policy. He works with Professor Peter Wilcoxen at Maxwell School of Public Affairs and International Relations. Qasim’s research interests include regional and global climate models, climate change resilience and migrations due to climate change in South Asia. Prior to joining Maxwell, Qasim used to work as a researcher and data analyst for a non-profit and a private university in Lahore.…

Photo of Geoffrey Millard

Geoffrey Millard

PhD, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Geoffrey is a fifth year graduate student in the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department at Syracuse University.  He earned his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from St. Lawrence University in 2010 and his Master’s in Environmental Engineering Science and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Sustainable Enterprise 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 Connor Olson

Connor Olson

PhD, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Connor earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in biology at Middle Tennessee State University. His previous work has focused on investigating anthropogenic stressors in remote Appalachian Mountain streams, with an emphasis on mercury. Much of this work has involved the use of riparian spiders as bioindicators of mercury flux from aquatic to terrestrial systems via emergent aquatic insects.…

Photo of Darci Pauser

Darci Pauser

PhD, Political Science

Darci is a PhD student in Political Science with a focus on International Relations and Public Policy. She completed her Master’s in Public Administration with a specialization in Environmental Policy at Syracuse University and her BA in Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley. Her dissertation research aims to further our understanding of state-level decision making, the role of transnational scientific communities, and the extent of foreign policy issue area linkage on the subject of transboundary water resource management.…

Photo of Changcheng Pu

Changcheng Pu

PhD, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Changcheng Pu is a second 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.…

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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.…

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Riley Sessanna

MS, Earth Sciences

Riley attended SUNY Geneseo where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Geology. He also has a strong background in mathematics and physics which inspired him to pursue the study of Hydrogeology.  He now works with Christa Kelleher in the Department of Earth Sciences as a Master’s Student.  His interests are widespread, but he is currently studying a local stream in Syracuse, connecting patterns of hydrology and biogeochemistry through field measurements and aerial imaging.

Photo of Shaidu Nuru Shaban

Shaidu Nuru Shaban

PhD, Earth Sciences

Shaidu was born in Tanzania and he is Tanzanian by citizenship. The nature of loving rocks and minerals was the major influence on his career path. He graduated from the University of Dar es salaam with a BSc. in Geology with honours. Four years later, he decided to specialise in petroleum geology, graduating with an MSc. …

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Donald Siegel

Emeritus Professor, 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

PhD, Earth Sciences

J.R. is PhD student in the Department of Earth Sciences working with Drs. Greg Hoke and Laura Lautz on research questions involving water availability and quality. He holds a B.A. in economics and a J.D. from the University of Virginia and spent five years practicing law with a prominent firm in New York City before deciding to pursue graduate work at Syracuse.…

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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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Julianne Sweeney

MS, Earth Sciences

Julianne is a MS student in the Department of Earth Sciences working with Dr. Laura Lautz. She earned her BA in geology from SUNY Geneseo in 2016. Her undergraduate research experience ranged from geomorphic landing site assessments for NASA’s InSight mission to Mars to analyses of the Holocene hydrology of the Dead Sea. A NSF Graduate Research Fellow, her current research uses remote sensing and hydrologic modeling to understand the effects of beaver dam analogs on riparian areas in the western United States.…

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Nimisha Thakur

PhD, Anthropology

Thakur is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She is currently specializing in Cultural Anthropology and previously earned a Masters in Archaeology and a B.A. in History from Pune and Delhi University, India respectively. As a child experiencing life on the river island of Majuli in Assam, India her maternal grandmother’s home, Thakur observed the dominance of the River Brahmaputra on the lives of the inhabitants of the region as it flooded every year during the monsoons.…

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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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Shiru Wang

PhD, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Shiru Wang is a PhD student in environmental engineering at Syracuse University. She received her B.S from Ningbo University in Chemistry and an MS in Environmental Engineering from Syracuse University. During her time at SU in graduate school, she served as a graduate teaching assistant in Fall 2017. She mentored an undergraduate for an independent research project.…

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Joseph Wasswa

PhD, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Joseph Wasswa is a Ugandan and a twin. He is also a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering working with Dr. Teng Zeng. Joseph earned a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering from San Diego State University and a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering from Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. Before moving to the U.S., he worked as Graduate Research Assistant in the School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bioengineering at Makerere University Kampala, Uganda.…

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Micah Wiesner

MS, Earth Sciences

 Micah is a Masters student in the Department of Earth Sciences working with Dr. Greg Hoke. As an undergraduate in Geophysics at SUNY Geneseo he collaborated with researchers at LLE in Rochester, NY to increase the efficacy of a solid-state Nuclear Track Detector, CR-39. After finishing at Geneseo he taught secondary science education (Earth Sciences, Ecology) before returning for his Masters at Syracuse.…

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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.…

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Lucie Worthen

M.S., Civil & Environmental Engineering

Lucie Worthen is a first-year M.S. student in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, studying with Dr. Cliff Davidson. She received her B.S. degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of New Hampshire. Her research interests include understanding the impact of plant communities and evapotranspiration in modeling the hydraulics and hydrology of green roofs through the software EPA SWMM5.…

Photo of Lachlan Wright

Lachlan Wright

PhD, Earth Sciences

Lachlan is a first-year PhD student in the Department of Earth Science, working with Dr. Chris Scholz. He comes to us from the University of Oxford, where he completed his Masters in Earth Science, and Undergraduate studies. Here, in conjunction with the University of Bristol, and the Geological Survey Department of Zambia, he conducted a basin analysis on the Luangwa Rift Valley using legacy 2D seismic data and deep-time climate simulations to predict lacustrine source facies.…

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 Nicholas Zaremba

Nicholas Zaremba

PhD, Earth Sciences

Nick is a first-year PhD student in the Department of Earth Sciences. Before coming to Syracuse, he worked at the USGS in St. Petersburg Florida. He completed a M.S. in Geology from East Carolina University where he studied the stratigraphic architecture and paleoenvironmental change of Pamlico Sound, North Carolina. Nick’s research at Syracuse will focus on studying lake records to better understand how climate has changed in the past.…

Photo of Teng Zeng

Teng Zeng

Assistant Professsor, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Zeng’s research interests include the occurrence and fate of organic contaminants, formation and control of disinfection byproducts, public health implications of water reuse and environmental impacts of energy production. Zeng’s group combines controlled laboratory experiments with field work to study chemical processes occurring across diverse natural and engineered aquatic environments. His most recent work focuses on: (1) assessing transformation processes of organic contaminants and their interactions with dissolved and particulate constituents in natural waters and (2) characterizing sources of harmful byproducts to minimize their formation during drinking water purification and wastewater recycling to promote water sustainability while protecting public health.…

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.…