Name: Jenna Israel
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Major: Environmental Engineering, '21
What is your area of research?
My project is modeling a passive technology called a denitrifying bioreactor (DNB) which treats agricultural nitrate pollution before it can have negative downstream effects, such as marine harmful algal blooms and "dead" zones . The nitrogen cycle has many steps, including some greenhouse gas intermediate nitrogen forms, creating intersecting water quality and climate change concerns. It is also important to consider that while low-tech solutions are attractive because of their costs and minimal maintenance, they are subject to the dynamics of the local climate, which we know is quickly changing, so it is important to have an accurate model so we can predict how the DNB will perform in the future.
What inspired you to choose this field of study?
I study environmental engineering because I'm curious about many areas of math and science, but I knew I wanted to work on big problems that affect many people. I've enjoyed that my project lets me use computation and modeling in addition to experiencing fieldwork and wet chemistry methods. Environmental engineers get to engage with highly complicated systems, but the motivation to better understand the systems is deeper than pure curiosity, because the process of providing clean drinking water, renewable energy, and cleaning up contaminants is crucial for the future of the environment and the people who live within it.
Tell us about your experience working as an undergrad within a research group:
I have worked for Professor Reid since my first year at Cornell and I have really enjoyed working with the group in and outside the lab. I think the focus on research working to characterize fundamental processes in highly applied settings makes the work both engaging and impactful. It is also exciting that the work spans many scales, from huge field studies to imaging on the atomic level. I have learned a great deal from the graduate students, post-docs, and other undergrads, in addition to Professor Reid. Professor Reid is a very supportive advisor, highly knowledgeable about many areas of environmental research, and encourages the group to think about big questions in scientific communication and education. Our discussions on the roles of environmental engineers in society and incorporating environmental justice issues into curriculum have helped me consider what it means to be a good scientist and think carefully about the kind of projects I want to pursue after graduation.
What are your hobbies or interests outside of your research or scholarship?
I'm a member of the Johnson Museum Club and I am minoring in English! I also enjoy spending time outside in Ithaca, cooking, and reading.
Fun fact about yourself: Two summers ago I worked with a group studying antibiotic resistance in wastewater in the CEE department at IITM in Chennai, India. Their elevator is also slow.