Kara L. Nelson

We graduated! (May 2019) 

students pictured at graduationProfessor Kara Nelson at graduationProfessor Kara Nelson at graduation with recent graduate

 

CURRENT PhD STUDENTS

 

Alma Bartholow

alma_bartholow@berkeley.edu

 

 

RESEARCH & EDUCATION:

Alma is a first year PhD student studying microbial communities in water systems. She earned her B.S. in environmental engineering from Northwestern University. She is currently pursuing her M.S. at UC Berkeley with support from a CEE departmental fellowship. 

PATH: Alma has been interested in water and sewage from a young age. In her undergraduate career she worked on a research project studying the impact of road salt runoff on urban greenspaces. She also worked for the metropolitan water reclamation district of greater Chicago and studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain. Alma is now focusing her research interests on understanding the microbial communities of our engineered water systems to address public health shortcomings. This fall she will be collaborating on a cross-departmental project using wastewater-based epidemiology to study SARS-CoV-2.  

COMMUNITY AND PERSONAL LIFE: As an undergraduate Alma advocated for empowering minorities in STEM and for sustainability projects on her campus through organizations such as the National Society of Black Engineers and Engineers for a Sustainable World. She has also volunteered with visiting immigrants detained at Dodge County Jail in Wisconsin and the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA. After her PhD she hopes to work for a governmental or an international organization.  .

 

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Karina Chavarria

kari07cha@berkeley.edu

Karina Chavarria's LinkedIn  

RESEARCH & EDUCATION: Karina is a Ph.D. student investigating the effects of intermittent water supply (IWS) on microbial communities in drinking water distribution systems and identifying differences in microbial water quality between of continuous and IWS systems. She is interested in understanding microbial ecosystems in water infrastructures-drinking water and wastewater systems - in developing countries with the goal of providing information and recommendations to improve the reliability of water infrastructure and protect public and environmental health. Karina earned her B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California Los Angeles  and her M.S. in Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley. Karina is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering with minors in Microbiology and Public Health.

PATH: Karina’s interest in access to safe water and sanitation stems from growing up in Guatemala and experiencing firsthand the risks associated with poor drinking water quality and lack of proper sanitation. As an undergrad, she worked in research projects that integrated field and laboratory approaches to understand the environmental fate and transport of microbial pollution (in LA coastal creeks and abroad). As an M.S. student, Karina was part of the Fundacion Cantaro Azul’s   impact evaluation study that assessed the efficacy of rural drinking water systems in Mexico. These research experiences and her passion to find solutions to provide safe water in developing countries led her to pursue a Ph.D. an become part of the Nelson Lab. Karina’s current Ph.D. work focuses on drinking water systems in Panama and is in close collaboration with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Her research work in Panama will continue after graduation.

COMMUNITY AND PERSONAL LIFE: As a graduate student, Karina joined the Latino/a Association of Graduate Students in Engineering and Science (LAGSES)  and was outreach coordinator (2015-2016). She worked with faculty, staff and students to create the Bay Area Graduate Pathways to STEM (GPS), a conference that promotes graduate school opportunities to underrepresented minorities, first generation and low- income students in California. She also helped create the LAGSES Fellowship Workshop, a mentoring program where students get the opportunity to help their peers in the fellowship application process. Karina is also very passionate about volunteering in the Alameda County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program for abused and/or neglected children.

 

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Soliver Fusi

sfusi@berkeley.edu

Soliver Fusi's LinkedIn

RESEARCH & EDUCATION: Soliver is a second year PhD student studying the recovery of Nitrogen from source-separated urine. She earned her A.S in engineering from Prince George's Community College and her B.S in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park. 

PATH: She recently contributed to ' A Waste Minimized Protocol’ publication from work done in Perugia, Italy, where she learned greener methods to do science at the bench scale. She hopes to take this same approach to the field scale through her contributions to previous research from this group, in partnership with the social enterprise Sanergy, in Nairobi, Kenya. Soliver was a nursing assistant and medication technician, experiences which inform her desire for an environmental/social justice based approach to the technical aspects of the hard sciences. She is thus minoring in Development Engineering and Human Geography to broaden her understanding of how we engage with and are affected by environmental engineering technologies.

COMMUNITY AND PERSONAL LIFE: She enjoys teaching 1-5th graders about stormwater through Bay Area Scientists In School (BASIS).

 

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Hannah Greenwald

hannah.greenwald@berkeley.edu

Hannah Greenwald's LinkedIn

RESEARCH & EDUCATION: Hannah is a second year PhD student studying how transitioning to Direct Potable Reuse will impact the microbiology in our drinking water distribution systems (will link to Research page). She earned her B.S in Environmental Engineering with a minor in Environmental Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and her M.S in Environmental Engineering from Berkeley. Hannah is currently pursuing her PhD in Environmental Engineering with minors in Microbiology and Public Health  with support from the Berkeley Fellowship and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

PATH: She first became interested in water quality after experiencing the effects of poor drinking water quality and sanitation first-hand during a summer in Panama. Since then, Hannah has been committed to working toward access to clean water and sanitation through both advanced and low-cost technologies for application in the US and abroad. One of Hannah’s most rewarding experiences to date was working with PureMadi in South Africa through an REU with the Smith Lab to improve the design and local production of point-of-use ceramic water filters. Hannah also had the opportunity to travel to Bolivia to study aerosolized enteric pathogens from the La Paz River with the Brown Water Group. Her senior design project at Georgia Tech focused on nutrient recovery from source-separated urine in the Living Building. She built on this work after starting in the Nelson Lab by researching pathogen removal in a previously-developed technology for nutrient recovery from urine and by winning a Big Ideas Scaling Up award for this ion-exchange technology.

COMMUNITY AND PERSONAL LIFE: Hannah is a current Berkeley Campus Representative for the NSF engineering research center Re-inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt), and she enjoys teaching 1-5th graders about stormwater through Bay Area Scientists In School (BASIS). After graduate school, Hannah hopes to continue conducting research at the intersection of environmental engineering and public health as a  professor.

 

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Adrian Hinkle

adrian.hinkle@berkeley.edu

Adrian Hinkle's LinkedIn

RESEARCH & EDUCATION: Adrian is a first year PhD student studying decentralized water reuse in California (will link to Research page). He earned his B.S. in Chemical Engineering and B.A. in International Studies at Oregon State University.

PATH: He first became interested in environmental engineering as an undergrad working with Engineers Without Borders. In addition to serving as chapter president, he worked with the team’s Nicaragua project, traveling on assessment and implemented trips to install a well and design a water distribution system in a rural village. He also did a research internship in Chile, studied abroad in Ecuador, and worked in consulting before coming to Berkeley. While still finalizing his research topic, he is already working towards a Development Engineering minor, and hopes to find a way for decentralized water treatment to make wastewater crop irrigation safer and more reliable.

COMMUNITY AND PERSONAL LIFE: Adrian enjoys volunteering via many science-related avenues, most recently as a STEM mentor for middle schoolers through Be a Scientist. After his PhD, he hopes to work for the United Nations, the World Bank, or one of many NGOs researching water quality and security.

 

 

Lauren Kennedy

kennedylaurenc@berkeley.edu

Lauren Kennedy's LinkedIn

RESEARCH & EDUCATION: Lauren is a Ph.D. student studying microbial communities in drinking water distribution systems. She is particularly interested in identifying differences between predicted metabolic capabilities between microbial communities in conventional drinking water systems and those in simulated direct potable reuse systems. Her work will provide recommendations for monitoring distribution systems before and after transitioning to direct potable reuse. She earned her B.S. in Environmental and Ecological Engineering at Purdue University with a minor in Environmental Politics and Policy, and her M.S. in Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley. She is currently working on her Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in Environmental Engineering with minors in Microbiology and Analytics.

PATH: Lauren’s path to the Nelson Lab was by no means direct. As an undergrad, she worked in labs based in Materials Engineering, Environmental Chemistry, and Environmental Systems Science. She became interested in direct potable reuse after taking Environmental Sustainability and Environmental and Ecological Systems Modeling (EEE 355 and 300) at Purdue. She became interested in microbiology after taking several ecology classes as part of her degree requirements in undergrad. These interests led her to the Nelson Lab for her Ph.D. work. She is appreciative of the support and advice she has received from these mentors on her winding path. Their different perspectives and fields of research still shape her research approach today.

COMMUNITY AND PERSONAL LIFE: Expanding your Horizons is an conference that brings ~400 middle school girls to UC Berkeley to learn about STEM fields. She volunteers each year as an organizer of a workshop for their parents that provides information about college prep, financial aid, and STEM activities in the bay area. In addition, she is a co-founder to the Environmental Engineering Advocacy Team- a group of graduate students working to build community in Civil and Environmental Engineering, voice graduate student concerns, and support each other.

CURRENT POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWS

Picture of Rose Kantor

Rose Kantor

rkantor@berkeley.edu

 

Rose, a postdoctoral fellow, studies the microbial communities in water for potable reuse using meta-omics techniques. She is interested in changes to the distribution system microbial community with the introduction of advanced treated wastewater. More broadly, she is interested in the microbiology of engineered environments and microbial biotechnologies that improve environmental and human health.

 

 

 

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Kevin Orner

kevinorner@berkeley.edu

Kevin Orner's LinkedIn

RESEARCH & EDUCATION: Kevin is a postdoctoral researcher leading an NSF InFEWS project on recovery of nutrients from concentrated waste streams and production of fertilizer products. After obtaining a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering with a certificate in Technical Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2008, he joined the University of South Florida's Peace Corps Master's International Program, which combined one year of multi-disciplinary coursework on campus and two years of international service. Kevin served for two years in the Peace Corps as a Water & Sanitation Engineer in an indigenous community in rural Panama. Kevin received his M.S. in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of South Florida in 2011, worked in engineering consulting, then returned to Tampa and received his Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of South Florida in 2019. In 2018 he conducted research under a Fulbright Research Grant in Monteverde, Costa Rica, where he investigated nutrient and energy recovery from pig and cow manure using anaerobic digestion and struvite precipitation. 

 

PATH: Kevin was first encouraged to pursue environmental engineering and sustainable development as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison through Engineers Without Borders. Through engineering service in communities in El Salvador and Ecuador, he discovered that he wanted to do more than have a job and make a living; he wanted to help people locally and globally by addressing challenges such as providing affordable access to all to clean water and sanitation. Inspired by these international service experiences, Kevin connected with Dr. James Mihelcic and began the Peace Corps Master’s International Program at the University of South Florida. 

COMMUNITY AND PERSONAL LIFE: At the University of South Florida, he was a member of the Peace Corps Prep group with faculty and staff from public health, anthropology, and global sustainability that prepares students for international service experiences through coursework and service. In March 2017 he organized and led an international service learning internship for 20 Honors College students at a Peace Corps Volunteer’s site in rural Panama, where students assisted in construction of a drinking water system and volunteered at a local health clinic. His long-term goal is to obtain a tenure-track faculty position in Environmental Engineering, where he can research resource recovery technologies, teach with integrated sustainability themes and international applications, and serve local and global communities through sustained mutually beneficial collaborations. In his free time, he enjoys biking, hiking, traveling, playing ultimate, and reading.


 


 

CURRENT CO-ADVISED PHD STUDENTS

 

RESEARCH & EDUCATION: Luis is a second-year PhD student from Santa Ana, El Salvador and raised in San Antonio, TX. He is currently investigating the impacts of water quality on struvite (MgNH4PO4:6H2O) formation and the implications for nutrient recovery. He earned his B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and his M.S. in Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

PATH: Luis knew from an early age he wanted to play in the NBA. At 6’3” he thought he had a shot, but his height plateaued by the time he finished middle school. He quickly realized he should focus on school instead. His backup plan was to be an educator or a scientist; to be able come up with solutions to help others, and empower people through education. Growing up in El Salvador he knew first-hand the problems surrounding water quality and intermittent water supplies, and the importance of a clean water supply. Taking classes in environmental science, engineering, and ethics reinforced these values while providing him a tool set to address real problems. At the University of Texas he became involved in undergraduate research, where he was influenced to think of wastewater as a resource instead of a waste. The experience fueled his interest in nutrient recovery and sustainable wastewater management for the future. Nowadays he spends his time thinking about repurposing nutrients from waste as fertilizers and the implications for soil, plant, and human health.

COMMUNITY AND PERSONAL LIFE: Luis is passionate about science education and retention of underrepresented students in higher ed. Growing up in a mixed-status household and being the first son of immigrant parents to go to college, education was a value strongly instilled in him at a young age. Despite his family’s love and support, he lacked the guidance and mentorship from an engineer that would allow him to develop professionally. He didn’t even know what it meant to do research until he was a junior in college. Most underrepresented students don’t know what careers they can pursue if they don’t know someone in that profession, and Luis hopes to change that through mentorship.  He volunteers with a decal that partners with Super Stars Literacy in Oakland and teaches science to elementary school students. Through interactive activities, he hopes to expose science to students from an early age and introduce them to an array of STEM-related careers. Luis is also part of a graduate student community that advocates for resources to support undocumented graduate students through their graduate degrees, regardless of immigration status and nationality. He is debating his future plans but will likely stay in education and pursue a career at a Hispanic Serving Institution.

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Luis Anaya

anaya_luis@berkeley.edu

Luis Anaya's LinkedIn

 

Dana is co-advised by Prof. Ashok Gadgil and studies the attenuation mechanisms (i.e. inactivation versus physical removal) of enteric viruses from complex water matrices using an iron-electrocoagulation (Fe-EC) system, a technology that is employed at large-scale plant in a rural community in West Bengal, India. Dana's incremental study will contribute to the robustness of Fe-EC -- concurrently removing arsenic, bacteria, and viruses from contaminated groundwater on which rural communities rely on for drinking water.

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Dana Hernandez

danaah@berkeley.edu

Dana Hernandez's LinkedIn

 

Sharada’s research is focused on recovery of nutrients, primarily Phosphorous, from human waste, particularly from fecal sludge, and their reuse in Indian agriculture. His work focuses on under­stand­ing poli­cies and reg­u­la­tions that encourage businesses to facil­i­tate reuse of sludge as fertilizer. He is interested in knowing why some farm­ers do not use fae­cal sludge irrespective of its high nutrient value. He is exploring frameworks to quan­ti­fy­ the micro­bial risks involved in collection and reuse of septage, and estimate poten­tial Phos­pho­rous and Nitro­gen that can be aug­mented by reuse. His research also encom­passes social and envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice issues related to sanitation work aris­ing out of caste based dis­crim­i­na­tion in India. He uses photography to communicate part of his research to wider audience.

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Sharada Prasad

sharadaprasad@berkeley.edu

Sharada Prasad's LinkedIn


 

Rachel’s research focuses on identifying mechanisms to make resource recovery sanitation systems viable at scale and protective of public health. Her research aims to develop methods for modeling community and occupational health risks associated with fecal sludge reuse technologies. Rachel is a PhD student in the School of Public Health and her broader research interests include quantitative microbial risk assessment, slum sanitation, and fecal sludge reuse.

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Rachel Sklar

rsklar@berkeley.edu

Rachel Sklar's LinkedIn


 

CURRENT UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS

Picture of Mira Chaplin

Mira Chaplin

@berkeley.edu

Mira Chaplin's LinkedIn

Mira is a third year undergraduate studying Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley. Her research in the Nelson Lab focuses on the impacts of potable water reuse. 

As a Berkeley native, Mira developed an interest in the flows of water in California through childhood hiking in the Berkeley hills, where she saw the changes in streamflow and ecology throughout the year. During a gap year studying in China, Mira developed an interest in environmental engineering when she saw how air quality affected daily life in Beijing. Mira’s interest in water came from her experiences with Engineers Without Borders, where she has worked with a community in Panama on the construction of a water distribution system. Through conversations with community members and activists, Mira developed an interest in the use of technology to provide equal access to water, and came to realize that complex sociopolitical and environmental issues are behind unequal access to water. Last summer, Mira completed a REU with at Virginia Tech, where she sampled water from streams in Western Virginia, and wrote a report on the changes in concentration of water quality contaminants downstream of surface coal mines under high and low flow conditions. This made her aware of the complexities of environmental issues in rural areas, and sparked her interest in research as a way of promoting change. In the Nelson lab, Mira has worked on determining protocols to use flow cytometry to measure the impact of direct potable reuse on distribution systems. She is currently working on a project to simulate the switch of water distribution systems to DPR water. Through her research, Mira hopes to increase understanding of the potential of water reuse to remediate the California water crisis.

Mira is a project lead for the UC Berkeley Engineers Without Borders Nicaragua Water project, where she leads a team designing a water distribution system in rural Nicaragua. She also teaches a decal course on farm worker rights and environmental justice in the Central Valley, and is leading a spring break trip where students work with social justice organizations.  In her spare time, Mira enjoys baking, cross-country skiing, and seeing local plays.

Picture of students in front of wooden bear statue on 7th floor of Davis Hall


LAB ALUMNI


Post Doctoral

 

 

 

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Jannis Wenk

Postdoc 2012-2014  

J.H.Wenk@bath.ac.uk

Jannis is currently a Lecturer in Chemical Engineering at the University of Bath, U.K.
   

Picture of Temitope Ogunyoku

Temitope Ogunyoku

Postdoc 2011-2013

taogunyoku@gmail.com

Temitope Ogunyoku is currently at IBM Research-Africa in Nairobi, Kenya.


PhD

 

Picture of Scott Miller

Scott Miller

miller.scottevan@berkeley.edu

Scott Milled's LinkedIn

RESEARCH & EDUCATION: Scott investigated unique risks to microbial drinking water quality in pilot-scale and simulation-scale direct potable reuse treatment systems (will link to Research page). He earned his B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and his M.S. from the University of California, Berkeley. 

PATH: Scott discovered an early love for water in National Geographic magazines, where he would replicate stories on hurricanes and floods on his mom’s old college typewriter, and weekends on the lakes of Minnesota where he grew up. Moving to California during the great drought of the 2010s was shocking, and Scott intentionally dove into the literature on potable water reuse in his M.S. year. The rising interest in direct potable reuse, in which highly purified wastewater can be directly introduced into a drinking water distribution system, was an exhilarating idea to Scott, but he was curious about the impact of aggressive treatment technologies on the microbiology of finished water and concerned about unintentional impacts on the downstream distribution system microbial communities. 

COMMUNITY AND PERSONAL LIFE: Scott is very interested in science education and policy. He founded and coached the Quiz Bowl team at Berkeley High School for three years, and recently began lecturing his first course in Spring 2019 on the use of natural treatment systems (e.g., ponds and wetlands) to improve water quality. He’s been active with community science education groups Bay Area Scientists in Schools and Be a Scientist, and additionally co-chairs the graduate student group Environmental Engineering Advocacy Team. He has produced four episodes for the ReNUWIt “Water You Talking About?” podcast series on topics such as water engineering history and contemporary conflicts over bottled water and water rights. He enjoys binge-listening to politics podcasts, commuter biking, all-sides brownie pans, and fantasy literature.

 

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   Erica Fuhrmeister

efuhr@berkeley.edu

Erica Fuhrmeister's LinkedIn

RESEARCH & EDUCATION: Erica studied sanitation and enteric pathogens in rural Bangladesh. She received her B.S. in Environmental Engineering from Johns Hopkins University and M.S. and PhD in Environmental Engineering from UC Berkeley.

PATH: She first became interested in the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) field as an undergraduate researcher at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Here she worked at the intersection of public health and environmental engineering to develop a mathematical model to characterize sanitation practices and safe waste disposal in low- and middle- income countries. She also got her first taste of wet lab work in a project where she developed a protocol used in a study in Bangladesh by culturing E. coli from local streams in Baltimore.

COMMUNITY AND PERSONAL LIFE: In graduate school Erica was an advocate of diversity in STEM research. She was a board member of the graduate chapter of SACNAS at Berkeley, which aims to promote diversity through recruitment, professional development and support for current graduate students. Moving forward in her academic career, she hopes to continue to combine engineering, microbiology and public health disciplines in her research and develop educational tools for promoting interest in STEM research. She started a postdoctoral position at Tuffs University in summer 2019.

..

 

Olga’s research involves spatial analysis and life-cycle assessment of decentralized infrastructure, with specific applications on water reuse and nitrogen recovery. She is developing planning support tools and methods to improve the usage of energy and water resources under the constraints of climate change.

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Olga Kavvada

PhD, 201-

   
Will is currently an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering, and, by courtesy, Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. 

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Will Tarpeh

wtarpeh@stanford.edu

PhD, 2017

   
Andrea is currently an Assistant Professor of Environmental Health at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering.

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Andrea Silverman

PhD 2013, Postdoc 2015-2016

andrea.silverman@nyu.edu

   
          Ann is currently a Senior Research Associate at the Pacific Institute.

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Anne Thebo

PhD, 201-

athebo@pacinst.org

   
 

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John Erickson

PhD

john.j.erickson@gmail.com

   
  Andy is currently a consultant at Geosyntec.

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Andrew Torkelson

 PhD 2015

aatorkelson(at)gmail.com

   
   Mi is currently a postdoctoral researcher at Eawag in Dubendorf, Switzerland.  

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Mi Nguyen

PhD 2015

mi.nguyentra (at) gmail.com

   
Fermin is currently the Director of Fundacion Cantaro Azul a non-profit organization he co-founded that designs and implements safe water, hygiene, and sanitation programs in underserved communities.

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 Fermin Reygadas

PhD 2014

Fermin (AT) cantaroazul.org

   
Rabia is currently a AAAS Science and Technology Fellow in Washington, D.C. 

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Rabia Chaudhry

PhD 2014

rabia999(at)gmail.com

   
Emily Kumpel is postdoctoral researcher at The Aquaya Institute in Nairobi, Kenya.

Picture of Emily Kumpel

Emily Kumpel

PhD 2013

emily.kumpel (at) gmail.com

 


Masters

 

Picture of John Law

John Law

ccljohn123@berkeley.edu

John Law's LinkedIn

John is designing a urine-to-fertilizer pilot for the recovery of nitrogen and phosphorous from human excreta. His research focuses on accelerating urea hydrolysis and optimizing ion exchange processes for sustainable fertilizer production. His broader interests include scaling of novel water/wastewater treatment technologies and nutrient recovery from wastewater.

   

Picture of Ileana Wald

Ileana Wald

Ileana Wald's LinkedIn

Masters 2017.

More:

 

Postdoctoral researchers (current position): Jee Yeon Kim (2009-2010; Samsung Research Group); David Love (2007-2009; Johns Hopkins University); Allegra da Silva (2008-2009; CDM); Maria Raynal (2007-2008 ; Universidad National Autonoma de México); Tamar Kohn (2004-2006; école Polytéchnique Fédérale de Lausanne); Jose Antonio Barrios (2005; National Water Commission, México)

Ph.D. students: Sintana Vergara (May 2012; World Bank); Michael Fisher (July 2011; Microvi Technologies); Khalid Kadir (July 2010; lecturer, U.C. Berkeley); Ashley Murray (May 2009; Founder, Waste Enterprisers, Accra, Ghana); Gordon Williams (May 2009; Trussell Technologies); Sarah Silkie (August 2008); Brian Pecson (Fall 2006; Trussell Technologies); Tryg Lundquist (Fall 2006; Associate Professor, Cal State San Luis Obispo)

M.S. students: Deepak Subramanian, Alejandro Guido, Jeff Dahm, Forest Kaser, Micah Lang, Fermin Reygadas, Sarah Brownell, Hans Schwing, Amy Pickering, Alicia Chakrabati, IlJoo Yang, Matthew Tolcher 

BS students: Fikreselam Habebo, Katya Cherukumilli, Malavika Neti, Douglas Fabini, Joshua Song, Majid Khan, Brian Coox, Ofelia Romero, Rachel Peletz, April Wong, Sonia Lopez, Ali Kattan, Senem Surelli