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.


Madeline Frank (EARTH) is investigating the evolution of the Afton mineral deposit in British Columbia to understand the geologic controls on metal enrichment.


Roland Amarteifio (PitE) and Madelynn Carter (Sociology) conducted research on the impact of digital fluency on female education in the developing world, focusing on the Volta Region of Ghana. Roland and Madelynn worked with student colleagues from Alma College to refurbish 500 donated computers and deliver and install then in 25 schools throughout the Volta Region. They published their results as an online case study: https://www.learngala.com/cases/digital-divide

Kristen Hayden (EARTH) conducted her senior honors thesis research evaluating climate action legislation at the local level and its impact on reducing carbon emissions. Kristen did a comprehensive comparison of more than a dozen cities globally and worked with the City of Ann Arbor to help draft local climate change policy.

Danielle Turner (EARTH) conducted research on the legal access to water in the Middle East, including an evaluation of the effects of climate change on regional water availability.

Madeline Frank (EARTH), Elizabeth Ratajczyk (EARTH) and Anastasia Alexandrova (EARTH) worked with us to separate magnetite from field samples for the purpose of measuring iron and oxygen stable isotopes.


Elizabeth Oliphant (EARTH) and Austin Broda (Mechanical Engineering) investigated renewable energy infrastructure in the developing world with a focus on the Pantanal region of Brazil. They traveled to the Pantanal and engaged with local stakeholders as part of this research. They published their results as an online case study: https://www.learngala.com/cases/rural-electrification and as a peer-reviewed publication listed on my Publication page.

Greg Cogut (PitE) conducted his senior honors thesis research focused on the legal and geological issues surrounding oil and natural gas development in the Arctic.

Grant Dukus (Electrical Engineering) investigated the potential impact that a rotating energy fund could have for reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the University of Michigan Ann Arbor Campus.

Logan Vear (Civil and Environmental Engineering) worked on a project to increase student awareness of sustainability issues at the University of Michigan. Logan became a founding member of Climate Action Movement, which lobbied UM administrators and the Board of Regents to implement climate change initiatives.

Sally Ruan (EARTH) conducted a petrographic study of ore samples from the Candelaria iron oxide – copper – gold mineral deposit in Chile. PhD student Maria Alejandra Rodriguez Mustafa was an active mentor for Elizabeth.

Catherine Garton (EEB) investigated the impact of a revolving energy fund and university policies as stimuli for increasing the transition to carbon neutrality.


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) conducted her senior honors thesis 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. PhD student Tristan Childress was an active mentor for Elizabeth.

Anne Rosett (EARTH) conducted her senior honors thesis investigating microwave heat treatment methods for dissolving mineral inclusions back into their host minerals. PhD student Brian Konecke was an active mentor for Anne.

Will Arnuk (EARTH) conducted 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) conducted 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), developed 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.

Nathan Houghteling (Electrical Engineering) investigated the potential impact of rooftop solar for community centers in Ypsilanti, Michigan.


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.