DENIN Environmental Fellows

** The DENIN Fellows program is currently being redesigned. Applications, including for the 2024 academic year, are currently on hold until further notice. **

Bridging Science and Society

The DENIN Environmental Fellows Program supports doctoral students carrying out environmentally relevant research at the University of Delaware. The goal of the program is to help prepare students whose scientific research and interests demonstrate a clear link to societal needs and benefits. We anticipate that, over time, DENIN Fellows will pursue diverse careers across academia and the public and private sectors and develop into the next generation of environmental leaders.

DENIN Fellows are selected to function as a team for two years and work together in ways that complement their primary academic programs. Fellows participate in and lead a select number of DENIN events and activities each year, including symposia and seminar series. DENIN provides opportunities for networking with domestic and international scientists and leaders, as well as for professional development in areas such as effectively communicating science. Fellows may also propose new initiatives.

Fellows are selected by a committee of internal and external reviewers. The fellowships include a $33,000 annual stipend. Fellowships are paid over a two-year period, as long as the Fellow remains in good standing academically. DENIN Fellows may not have concurrent RA or TA positions.

Meet our Current Fellows:

Hanan Abou-Ali earned her Bachelor degree from Lebanese International University and a Master degree from Idaho State University. Under the direction of her advisor. Dr. Kyle Davis, Assistant Professor Geography and Spatial Sciences, her research involves remote mapping and machine learning of crop growth patterns in Nigeria, with the goal of helping smallholder farmers optimize crop yield and economic return while minimizing environmental impact. 

Bradie Crandall earned a Bachelor degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of South Carolina. Under the direction of his advisor, Dr. Feng Jiao, Robert Grasselli Development Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, his research focuses on taking pollutants like the carbon dioxide that’s causing climate change, and the nitrates that are polluting our drinking water in Delaware, and turning these pollutants into valuable chemicals. He aims to build an electrolyzer to convert nitrates into sustainably produced ammonia, which can be turned into fertilizer. 

Jason Geiger earned a Bachelor degree from Gannon University. His research with his advisor, Dr. Paul Imhoff, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is testing a more sustainable method that leaves the soil in place. Geiger is using a chemical that modifies the crystallization habit of the salts in the produced waters and allows them to form on top of the soil where they can be easily removed. 

Ross Klauer Klauer’s earned a Bachelor degree in chemical engineering from Rose Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana. His research under the direction of Dr. Mark Blenner and Dr. Kevin Solomon, both Associate Professors in Chemical and Bbiomolecular Engineering, is examining the breakdown of common plastics in the guts of mealworm larvae. He hopes to identify enzymes and microorganisms important in this process and ultimately build a bioreactor containing microorganisms that produce the enzymes that break down plastic. 

Christy Li earned duel degrees in Earth and Environmental Science and Math from Lehigh University.  Her research with Dr. James Pizzuto, Professor of Earth Sciences, is to study the transport and removal of mercury-absorbed fine sediment in the South River in Virginia through the development of a sediment transport model. She is attempting to determine how long it would take the river to clean out these contaminated sediments without human interference and is hoping to help convey the dangers of mercury-tainted fish to the local population. 

R. Alan Mason earned duel degrees, in Earth Sciences and Music Education from Ohio State University. His work with his advisor, Dr. Tobias Kukulka, Professor, School of Marine Science and Policy, shows that plastics tend to aggregate into tidelines—where two currents or water masses converge—and form a patchy, irregular distribution in the bay. Mason aims to develop analytical models to better understand what drives plastics movement in Delaware Bay. Understanding the movement of plastics through the bay will help us more efficiently remove them from the water, target beach cleanups, and stop plastics from reaching the bay in the first place. 

Mike Powers His research, under the direction of Dr. Michael O’Neal, Professor of Geological Sciences is using satellite data and field measurements to map the occurrence of permafrost in the Andes. The area contains cultural heritage sites of indigenous people, and several new copper mines are proposed in the area. He hopes the work will help balance concern for preserving the region’s permafrost and rock glaciers as drinking water reserves with more environmentally friendly copper mining. 

Dannielle Pratt earned a Master’s degree in Environmental Science and Management from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Syracuse University. With her advisor, Dr. Holly Michael, Director of DENIN and Professor in the Departments of Earth Sciences and Civil & Environmental Engineering, she is studying sea level rise along the Delmarva Peninsula. By understanding the drivers and mechanisms of hydrologic change, doctoral students like Dannielle can work to develop response strategies to prepare coastal communities for the future.

Kyle VanHemert earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master’s Degree in history from the University of Delaware and is working toward a doctoral degree in history through UD’s Hagley Program in Capitalism, Technology, and Culture. His research focuses on the early stages of environmental politics in the United States after World War II, specifically the White House Conference on Natural Beauty hosted by Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson in May 1965. 

Meet our Past Fellows:

Mohammad Afsar earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. He worked with Professor Yan Jin in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences to understand the interactions between colloids and soil organic matter under dynamic redox conditions, which frequently exist in wetlands.

Hayden Boettcher earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Zoology from the University of Wisconsin Madison. Under the direction of Dr. Jonathan Cohen, associate professor of marine science and policy, he is working on whether microplastic exposure during larval development affects blue crab survival and return to the Delaware Bay population. This information will feed into the state’s regional management decisions for the blue crab fishery.

Jean Brodeur earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of South Carolina. She worked Dr. Wei-Jun Cai, Mary A.S. Lighthipe Chair of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. focusing on ocean acidification. 

Rachel in lab

Rachel Burch earned a Bachelor of Science degree in  Civil & Environmental Engineering from Messiah College. She is working on using a BioHiTech digester for aerobic digestion—breakdown of food waste by microorganisms in the presence of oxygen—to produce biofuel or fertilizer. Burch’s advisors, Dr. Michael Chajes and Dr. Daniel Cha, both professors of civil and environmental engineering, 

Photo of Margaret Capooci, 2017 DENIN Fellow

Margaret Capoocl earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental science and philosophy from The University of Scranton. She is a doctoral student in the Water Science and Policy Program working with Assistant Professor Rodrigo Vargas. She worked to understand the patterns and mechanisms behind carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions from wetland soils. 

Paula Cárdenas-Hernández earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental and Sanitary Engineering at the Universidad de La Salle, Bogotá D.C., Colombia. Her research with Dr. Pei Chiu, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is studying the processes that control the fate of explosives in soils and groundwater. Her main goal is to build a model to predict the degradation of explosives in the environment under natural and remediation conditions. Soil and groundwater contamination by explosives and related materials is a worldwide problem.

Core Charpentier earned her bachelor’s degree in Marine Science from Eckerd College.  She worked with Dr. Jonathan Cohen in the School of Marine Science to understand the effects of acidification on zooplankton behavior and implications to the global ocean.

Robert Ddamulira earned his bachelors degree at (MUK) Kampala, Uganda. His research looked at the possible relationship between oil development activities and deforestation in rural Uganda, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the most ecologically important landscapes in Africa. He worked with Dr. Lawrence Agbemabiese, Energy and Environmental Policy.

Gretchen Dykes earned her bachelor’s degree in Biology from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. Her work focused on the microbial communities of rice paddies and plant uptake of arsenic—important components of the plant-soil nexus—and factors that potentially contribute to mitigation of arsenic uptake in rice plants.

Elvis Ekibade earned his bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria. His work consists of several projects, from the fundamental to the applied. He worked with Dion Vlachos, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering looking at making adhesives from corn stover and sugar cane waste material and examining the use of different catalysts and reaction conditions on these transformation processes.

Sean Ellis earned his bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Economics from LaSalle University and a master’s degree in economics and applied econometrics. He worked with Dr. Kent Messer, S. Hallock du Pont Professor of Applied Economics and Statistics, researching consumers’ willingness-to-accept and willingness-to-pay for food grown with non traditional irrigation water, specifically recycled wastewater.

Sean Fettrow earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies from Pennsylvania State University and Master of Science in Applied Geosciences from the University of Pennsylvania. With his advisor, Dr. Angelia Seyfferth, associate professor of biogeochemistry and plant-soil interactions in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, he is assessing marsh biogeochemistry seasonally, spatially, and within tidal cycles. He hopes to use this information to improve our understanding of factors that control carbon stability in marsh soils and help explain some of the variability in marshes’ carbon-holding capacity. 

Jason Fischel earned his bachelor degree in environmental science at Juniata College. He worked with Donald L. Sparks, S. Hallock du Poet Chair in Plant and Soil Sciences to study soil chemical processes and properties impacting chromium cycling in highly contaminated soils.

Matthew Fischel earned dual bachelor’s degrees in environmental soil science and natural resource management from the University of Delaware. He worked with Donald Sparks, S. Hallock du Pont Chair in Soil and Environmental Chemistry, researching how sea level rise will affect arsenic mobility and sequestration in marsh soils and vegetation.

Audrey Gamble earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Master Degree in Soil Chemistry from Auburn University.  She worked with Donald L. Sparks, S. Hallock du Poet Chair in Plant and Soil Sciences to study the speciation and reactivity of phosphorus and arsenic in Mid-Atlantic. soils

Jimmy Gelvez Murillo worked as s part of a team under Dr. Pei Chu, Professor Civil and Environmental Engineering, that sought to develop a model to predict how quickly certain chemicals found in explosives are degraded in soil.  Understanding this degradation process in greater detail will save time and money.


Julia Guimond received her bachelor’s in Geology-Biology from Brown University. She worked with Dr. Holly Michael, Professor, Unidel Fraser Russell Career Development Chair for the Environment studying coastal hydrogeology and how salt marsh hydrology impacts marsh biogeochemistry and, in turn, impacts vertical fluxes of carbon to the atmosphere and lateral fluxes of carbon to tidal creeks and estuaries. 

Tobias Hasse earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Delaware. He worked with Dr. Jim Pizzuto, Professor Earth Sciences researching how floodplain sediment storage durations create lags between changes in upland land use and changes in downstream water quality.

Andrew Hill earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Plant Sciences and a Master of Science in Geography from Minnesota State University . He is exploring gas exchange in a salt marsh ecosystem at St. Jones Reserve near Dover with Dr. Rodrigo Vargas, professor of ecosystem ecology and environmental change in the UD Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. Salt marshes are disproportionately important as storage places for carbon, in light of climate change and he is trying to improve how we can best measure and monitor these ecosystems so we can better include them in carbon cycling models and regional climate models.

Mary Hingst earned as Master of Science in Geosciences degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University. Her research with Dr. Holly Michael, Professor, Unidel Fraser Russell Career Development Chair for the Environment. is looking at impacts of competing water-use behavior on the dynamics of the drivers, pathways, and timescales of seawater intrusion in coastal agricultural land. Her research addresses a real-world present-day issue, having groundwater supplies or fresh drinking water supplies contaminated by increasing salinization.


Max Huffmanearned a Bachelor of Science degree from Hope College. His research with Dr. James Pizzuto, professor of geological sciences at UD, is to develop a model that tracks sediment movement through a watershed to a depositional basin, including the storage phase. His work addresses the lag between when sediment enters the watershed and when it exits. This is important to know in assessing the timing and effectiveness of streambank restoration strategies.  This model will give us a tool to understand how these strategies are going to play out over time” he explains, or with future changes in climate. His work could eventually be applied to larger systems such as the Chesapeake or Delaware Bay watersheds.

Fatemah in lab

Fatemah Izaditame completed a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering and a Master of Science degree in civil and environmental engineering. She is worked with Dr. Donald Sparks,S. Hillock du Pont Chair, Francis Alison Professor Professor, Plant and Soil Sciences, Chemistry and Biochemistry and Civil and Environmental Engineering focusing on the cycling and transport of arsenic in heavily contaminated soils and sediments (underwater soils) affected by sea-level rise and flooding. 

Mahfuzur Rahman Khan earned a bachelor’s in Geology and a master’s degree in Hydrogeology from University of Dhaka. He worked with Dr. Holly Michael, DENIN Director, Professor, Unidel Fraser Russell Career Development Chair for the Environment to improve understanding of the implications of climate change for the groundwater systems in coastal Bangladesh.

Anders Kiledal earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from Hillsdale College. His UD work focused on the bacteria in concrete and their potential as bio-indicators of a chemical reaction that causes premature concrete degradation. He worked with Julia Maresca, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Kyra H. Kim is a native of South Korea. During her bachelor’s degree program at the University of Texas at Austin, she was drawn to the study of water science, policy, and management. In the Department of Geological Sciences at UD, she worked with Professor Holly Michael and Professor William Ullman to understand how sandy beaches regulate the flow and quality of nutrient-rich groundwater from coastal aquifers to the oceans.

Xiangmin Liang earned his bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from Huazhong University of Science and Technology and a master’s degree from Illinois Institute of Technology. He worked with with Daniel Cha, professor of civil and environmental engineering, focusing on developing composite materials that are derived entirely from microorganisms growing naturally in wastewater treatment plants. 

Eric Moore earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and master’s in ecology and evolution from the University of Louisville. He worked with Tara Trammel, the John Bartram Associate Professor of Urban Forestry in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences focusing on nonnative invasive plants and urbanization-related habitat disturbances, two of the most well-recognized threats to biodiversity in terrestrial ecosystems worldwide.

Photo of Matt Miller

Matthew Miller earned his bachelor’s degree in Environmental and Hazardous Material Management and master’s degree in Environmental Safety from the University of Findlay. He worked with Dr. Shreeram Inamdar, professor Plant and Soil Sciences, to understand the effects of climate change on fresh water resources. Specifically focusing on water/wastewater utility adaptation.

Lauren Mossesso earned her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Geology at University of Mary Washington. She worked with Amy Shober, Professor and Extension Specialist, Nutrient Management, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. Her work focused on trying to better understand how phosphorus moves through soil on the Delmarva Peninsula.. 

Spencer Moller

Spencer Moller earned his bachelors degree in Biology. He works with his advisor, Dr. Deb Jaisi, associate professor of environmental biogeochemistry studying the degradation of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide, with the goal of making its breakdown products more environmentally friendly and less persistent in the environment.

Joanne Norris

Joanne Norris earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sustainability Studies from Hofstra Univeristy and an MA in Climate and Society from Columbia University. She studied the polymer called PHBHx. It has piezoelectric potential, which means that it can generate a voltage if it’s manipulated mechanically. 

Lauren O’Connor earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Union College. With her advisors, Dr. Yu-Ping Chin and Dr. Emma J. Rosi, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Senior Scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies respectively, she is looking at chlorpyrifos, a pesticide, in streams and how it affects base level metabolism including insect emergence and biofilm growth rates. Understanding how pesticides are altering the stream ecology can ripple into how they are affecting fish, and eventually, how they are affecting human populations.

Zhixuan Qin received her bachelor’s degree in ecology from South China Agricultural University and Master’s degree in interdisciplinary ecology (water and soil science concen-tration) from University of Florida. She worked with Dr.  Amy Shober, Professor, Plant and Soil Sciences to understand nutrient management and soil biogeochemistry (mainly N and P). 

Vanessa Richards earned as Master of Science degree in Food Science and Biotechnology and a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from Delaware State University. With her advisor, Dr. Jeffry Fuhrmann, professor of soil and environmental microbiology, she is looking at enhancing the “cooperation” or symbiosis between soybean bradyrhizobia (SB). and soybeans. Improving the symbiosis between SB and soybean would allow soybeans to be grown more efficiently with less fossil fuel–derived fertilizer. The use of fertilizer releases greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Reducing the need for chemical fertilizer would also help reduce water pollution from soybean fields.

Amanda Rosier earned her bachelor’s degree in microbial ecology from the University of Montana. She worked with Professor Harsh Bais in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. focusing on the complex, below-ground interactions of beneficial bacteria with plant roots, particularly interactions that improve plant health. 

Kelsey Schumacher’s doctoral research focused on policy regarding electronic waste, or “e-waste”, one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world.She studied with Dr. Lawrence Agbemabiese in UD’s Energy and Environmental Policy Program, now part of the Biden School of Public Policy & Administration. Her interests in resource recovery and the circular economy led to her current position with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Tyler Sowers earned his bachelor and master’s degrees in plant and soil sciences from North Carolina State University. He worked with Dr. Donald L. Sparks, S. Hallock du Poet Chair of Plant and Soil Sciences researching organo-mineral associations and sequestration mechanisms impacting carbon cycling in diverse terrestrial and aquatic systems.

Alma Vasquez-Lule earned bachelor’s degree in Biology from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and a Master’s degree in Geomatics from the Research Center of Geography and Geomatics in Mexico. She worked with Dr. Rodrigo Vargas, professor of Plant and Soil Sciences, to study how carbon is released to the atmosphere and captured by vegetation in a coastal salt marsh in St. Jones Reserve near Dover, Delaware. 

Danhui Xin earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in environmental engineering at Tongji University in Shanghai, China. She worked with Pei Chiu, Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering looking at biochar, a carbon-rich product made by burning organic wastes. 

Lingxiao (Alfred) Yan received his bachelor’s degree from Xiamen University in marine science and and the master’s degree from Duke University in environment management. Working with Professor Sunny Jardine, Assistant Professor and Professor George Parsons, Unidel E.I. du Pont Professor of Marine Studies, he investigated the new methods to apply the ecosystem-based management (EBM) for the sustainability of marine environment. 

How To Apply

The application period is now closed – further details will be provided when reopened in 2024.