Undergraduate Research

I am dedicated to involving undergraduate students in engaged learning opportunities outside the classroom. There are several options to accomplish this.  Some undergraduates work on a project that complements the research of a graduate student in our research group. This has the added benefit of allowing the graduate student to gain mentoring skills. Some undergraduates work with me to scaffold research projects that align with her/his academic and career goals. In almost all case, the research is done for independent study, or as part of a senior thesis.  Here is a list of students who have performed research with me during the past couple of years, including their major and the focus of their research.


Elena Essa (Statistics), Lydia Whitbeck (PitE, geology minor), Will Arnuk (EARTH), Nathan Houghteling (electrical engineering) are working with me and colleagues in the University of Michigan Energy Institute (http://energy.umich.edu/) to assess the potential for the University of Michigan to be carbon neutral.

Elizabeth Rogers (EARTH) is pursuing her senior honors thesis working with PhD student Tristan Childress, Professor Kacey Lohmann, and me. Elizabeth is analyzing fluid inclusions trapped in magnetite from the El Laco mineral deposit in northern Chile to quantify the carbon isotope of the fluids and use those data to inform us about the source of the fluids.

Anne Rosett (EARTH) is pursuing her senior honors thesis with PhD student Brian Konecke and me. Anne is investigating microwave heat treatment methods for gemstones.

Will Arnuk (EARTH) is pursuing his senior honors thesis conducting a solar microgrid assessment for the Ann Arbor Public Schools, in consultation with the superintendent and director of facilities.

Sarah Dieck (PitE)  is pursuing her senior honors thesis conducting a robust survey of public opinion regarding hydraulic fracturing of the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania, where fracking is permitted, and New York, where there is a fracking moratorium. This involved developing and deploying a Qualtrics survey that Sarah used to get input from members of hunting and fishing clubs in PA and NY.

Alexandria Shand (math and computer science), and Bridget Lockman (PitE), are developing an environmental case study focused on the University of Michigan athletic program’s Zero Waste initiative. This program was launched in 2017 and eliminated the landfill waste stream from home football games.

Erich Eberhard (PitE, film) and Elizabeth Oliphant (EARTH), investigated the relationship between deforestation in Indonesia and palm oil production. They are developing an environmental case that focuses on the effects of deforestation.

Liam Wolfram (economics and PiTE) investigated the relationship among state mandates for renewable energy infrastructure development, utility-scale compliance with such mandates, and renewable development in states without mandates.

Katherine Mather (economics and PiTE) investigated realistic renewable energy scenarios for Shanghai, China, based on forecasted population growth.

Emma Forbes (EARTH), Will Arnuk (EARTH), Krysten Dorfman (PitE) and Ahana Shanbhogue (environmental engineering) worked as a team to conduct a microgrid feasibility study for the City of Ann Arbor. This was done in consultation with sustainability folks in AA government and resulted in a public presentation to the AA Energy Commission in early September. The report is now published via the UM Energy Institute and details how AA can use local renewable energy development to meet their goal of carbon neutrality by 2035.


Jessica Hicks (EARTH) and Erich Eberhard (PitE, film) investigated the sustainability of cocoa farming in Ghana. They published their results as an online case study: https://www.learngala.com/en/cases/ghana-cocoa-complications/ and as a peer-reviewed publication listed on my Publication page.

Anne Canavati (triple major: International Relations, Middle Eastern and North African Studies, and Arabic language with minors in Business Administration and Environmental Studies) and Jayson Toweh (PitE) investigated the fate of electronic waste (E-waste) in the Agbogbloshie E-waste “dump”, in Accra, Ghana. They published their results as an online case study: https://www.learngala.com/cases/ewaste-in-ghana/ and as a peer-reviewed publication listed on my Publication page.

Elizabeth Oliphant (EARTH) and Mark Finlay (EARTH) investigated the sustainability of cultivating the crop Jatropha curcas to produce biodiesel. They published their results as an online case study: https://www.learngala.com/cases/ghana-biodiesel/ and as a peer-reviewed publication listed on my Publication page.

Thomas West (EARTH) investigated emissions trading as government-mandated market-oriented solution to reduce air pollution by industry. Emissions trading has been proposed as an alternative to sweeping regulations such as the carbon tax, the rigidity of which leads higher economic burden on societies.