Meet the Lab

Principal Investigator (PI)
Jessica R. Ray (she/her), Assistant Professor

Jessica Ray joined the University of Washington Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering as an Assistant Professor in January 2019. Previously, Dr. Ray was a Miller Institute Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley investigating low-cost engineered adsorbents for removal of trace contaminants in urban stormwater. Jessica received her B.S. (Chemical Engineering, 2009) and Ph.D. (Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering, 2015) from Washington University in St. Louis. As a graduate student, Dr. Ray’s research examined the fate and transport of nanomaterials by employing advanced surface chemistry analytical techniques for which she received the Environmental Protection Agency Students to Achieve Results (STAR) Graduate Fellowship to support her research. At the University of Washington, Jessica plans to design, characterize and apply low-cost engineered adsorbents for selective removal of contaminants in stormwater and wastewater. In the future, Dr. Ray plans to expand the portfolio of composite adsorbents to investigate ways to recover nutrients and other valuable materials from wastewater. In her free time, Jessica loves to cook and bake, and go hiking with her dog, Lucy.

Graduate Students
Fanny Okaikue-Woodi (she/her)

Fanny is a PhD student in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Fanny completed her A.S (2013) in Mathematics at Minneapolis College, then her B.S (2015) and M.Eng (2016) in Environmental Engineering at Cornell University. She is interested in the fate and transport of contaminants in environmental matrices and in developing remediation techniques for these contaminants. For her M.Eng study, Fanny investigated the mechanisms governing the trapping of fluoroquinolone antibiotics in montmorillonite clay. Currently, her research focuses on developing new media for stormwater treatment. Fanny hopes to develop effective materials and techniques to be used in the remediation of a broad spectrum of contaminants. In her free time, Fanny enjoys hiking, discovering new places, discovering and listening to new podcasts and watching stand-up comedy. 

Jessica Steigerwald

Jessica Steigerwald completed her B.S. in Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University in 2018. Her undergraduate research focused on removal of heavy metals (Cu, Pb, and Zn) from stormwater using locally sourced biochar materials. After graduating Jessica began working with Arcadis, a global design and consultancy firm, in Clifton Park, New York as an entry level Environmental Engineer. Her work at Arcadis has focused on remediation of PCBs and organic solvents in soil, groundwater, and surface waters. Jessica is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. Her research interests lie in fate and transport, and treatment of aquatic contaminants. In her free time Jessica enjoys running, reading, drawing, traveling, and spending time outdoors.

Alanna Hildebrandt (she/her)

Alanna is a Ph.D. student in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Alanna completed her B.S. (2020) in Chemistry at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. In her undergraduate research, Alanna developed methodology for novel column reactions to investigate the reduction of 4-chloronitrobenzene at the surface of hematite nanoparticles and the oxidation of iron onto the surface of the nanoparticles. She is interested in researching the fate and transport of emerging organic contaminants as well as developing materials to treat emerging organic contaminants. In her free time, Alanna enjoys gardening, hiking, biking, soccer, cooking, and listening to podcasts. 

Jennifer Hooper (she/her), primary advisor: Prof. Michael Dodd

Jen Hooper is a PhD student in in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She competed a BS in Biological Systems Engineering with a minor in Mathematics from the University of Idaho in 2004 and an MS in Environmental Engineering and minor in Risk Analysis, Assessment and Communications from Cornell University in 2006. Since that time she has been a professional engineer in consulting and is currently serving as a Principal at CDM Smith. Her consulting work has focused on chemical and biological treatment processes for remediation, drinking water, wastewater and water reuse, including over a dozen R&D projects for the Water Research Foundation and the Department of Defense’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Program. She is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. Her PhD research is investigating degradation of recalcitrant halogenated organic compounds, by hydrated electron generating photosensitizers. She enjoys going for bike rides, hiking, yoga and quality time with her family. 

Amy Quintanilla (she/her)

Amy is a graduate student in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Physics at Wellesley College. Her senior research project explored the power-conversion efficiency and stability of solution-processed triple halide perovskite solar cells to understand their performance as a more accessible and cost-effective solar panel semiconductor. Prior to this, she supported graduate research in the Watershed Hydrology Lab at UC Santa Cruz, which aimed to study the impacts of agricultural runoff on abiotic factors at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve. Her research within the AIMS Lab will investigate how biochar influences soil microbiomes and how these microbial communities can be enhanced to improve stormwater remediation. She enjoys hiking, reading, crocheting, and spending time with her niece and nephew. 

Reagan Beers (she/her)

Reagan is a PhD student in the Molecular Engineering program and earned a B.S. Chemistry in 2022 at the University of California San Diego. As an undergraduate, she immobilized catalysts on porous silicon nanoparticles to degrade photosensitizer dyes and chemical nerve agents. She also spent a summer interning at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) where she researched corrosion of metal alloys in liquid desiccants to help construct an energy efficient HVAC system. For her graduate research, she is interested in employing vanadium carbide MXenes for reductive and selective PFAS degradation in water. In her spare time, Reagan likes to cook, dance, try new food, go on hikes, and spend time with family and friends.

Undergraduate Students
Joshua Chong (he/him)

Joshua is pursuing a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and learned about water treatment from an Environmental Engineering class taught by Dr. Ray and Fanny. He joined the lab under Nikki in early 2021, helping her test biochar made from spent coffee grounds as a filter media. Now that Nikki has graduated, he continues the coffee ground biochar experiments and is coding in Python as a side project to help with data analysis. In his free time, Joshua enjoys drawing, dancing, performing music, and playing video games with his friends. Though his work involves coffee grounds, his favorite beverage is water.

Joseph Severin (he/him)

Joseph (Joe) joined Dr. Ray’s lab during summer 2021 and is pursuing a B.S. in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Data Science. Working under Fanny, his time is focused on the synthesis of ferrate coated sand and testing its efficacy as a means of water treatment. After graduation, Joe hopes to continue his education in a data related area of study, in the meantime, and while he’s not busy with school, he can be found playing D&D or watching tv.

Shawnie Peng (she/her)

Shawnie is currently in the Chemical Engineering undergraduate program. She developed a strong interest in the AIMS Lab after discovering research, projects, and goals of the lab. Shawnie joined the lab in Fall of 2021, and is assisting Jess Steigerwald’s research on the removal of PFAS in stormwater using biochar. In her free time, Shawnie enjoys traveling, roller skating, and trying new foods and restaurants.

Former Postdocs
Katya Cherukumilli, Ph.D. (she/her)

Katya completed her B.S. in Environmental Sciences (2012) and PhD in Environmental Engineering (2017) at the University of California, Berkeley. During her doctoral research, Katya developed an inexpensive process to remediate fluoride-contaminated groundwater by using bauxite, an aluminum-rich ore that is widely available in resource-constrained regions affected by endemic skeletal fluorosis. Currently, Katya is a UW Commercialization Postdoctoral Fellow and the Founder/CEO of her nonprofit, Global Water Labs. Katya aims to scale up and deploy the groundwater defluoridation process in the East African Rift Valley in conjunction with field partners. Katya is also conducting research to treat industrial wastewater containing heavy metals (e.g., Cu, Pb, Zn) at Cascade Designs, Inc. Her overarching research interests are to leverage inexpensive natural composite ores to remediate persistent inorganic groundwater contaminants, to evaluate the efficiency of different reactor configurations, and to develop novel methods for addressing solid waste produced during water treatment by adsorption. In her spare time, Katya loves throwing pottery at the studio, cooking vegetarian meals, playing strategy-based board games, bouldering, playing soccer, and exploring new waterfalls and rivers.

Yuemei Ye, Ph.D. (she/her)

Yuemei completed her Ph. D in the chemistry department in Tongji University in China (2017). During her Ph.D. study, she was focused on the functional polymetric hydrogel synthesis and their applications. Then she worked on functional porous materials design for selective adsorption and desorption of toxic pollutants in water during her postdoctoral research in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the School of freshwater center. Her research projects were supported by the A.O. Smith Corporation. and SSI Corporation. Currently, Yuemei is a UW Postdoctoral Fellow, she has background on both material science and water treatment research, she is focusing on developing useful and green materials or methods for drinking water and wastewater treatment. She desires to become a professional female scientist, working on environmental applications. In her spare time, Yuemei loves walking outside, enjoy the sunshine, reading books, cooking Chinese food, swimming and exploring the city.

Former Graduate Students
Nicole Redden

Nikki is a graduate student in the department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. Nikki completed her B.S. (2019) in Civil Engineering at Saint Louis University (SLU). At SLU, Nikki’s research investigated the potential for arsenic removal in drinking water with porous iron-coated clay pots. Nikki joined the AIMS Lab as part of the Campus Sustainability Fund during the Spring 2020 quarter and is involved in evaluating spent coffee ground biochar as a filter media. Her research interests include removal of trace organic contaminants in urban stormwater and employing strategies to improve the overall sustainability of cities. In her spare time, Nikki loves doing outdoor activities including biking, running, hiking, bouldering and ultimate frisbee. She also loves board games, reading and crossword puzzles.

Former Undergraduate Students
Vivian Jones (she/her)

Vivian graduated with her B.S. in Chemical Engineering in 2021. She joined the AIMS lab in the summer of 2020, assisting Dr. Yuemei Ye with the characterization of a nano-material for PFAS degradation. During her senior year, Vivian completed an independent honors research project to investigate molecularly imprinted polymers for selective removal of long and short chain PFAS from water. Outside of the lab, she enjoys spending time in the kitchen, as well as getting outdoors to hiking and backpack. Ultimately, Vivian is looking to pursue a career in science to promote sustainability and combat today’s pressing environmental concerns.

Hojeong Bang (she/her)

Hojeong completed her B.S. degree in Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington in 2020. She joined the AIMS Lab as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in Fall 2019, where she worked under Dr. Yuemei Ye to assist in the experiments to optimize a new composite material used to degrade toxic organic contaminants in wastewater. In her free time, Hojeong enjoys practicing yoga and trying out new restaurants.

Max Steiner (he/him)

Max Steiner transferred from Seattle Central College to the University of Washington in 2017, where he is pursuing a B.S. in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Applied Mathematics. He joined the AIMS lab as part of a Mary Gates sponsored internship during Summer quarter 2019, and works under the guidance of Dr. Katya Cherukumilli on investigating the performance of filter columns for the removal of fluoride from contaminated groundwater in resource-constrained areas. He is also hoping to learn about the surface characteristics of the active media used in the columns, in order to understand some of the mechanisms driving the filtration process. Whenever possible, Max enjoys drinking coffee, practicing drums, clearing his mind on walks, and learning new gymnastic skills.

Daaniya Iyaz (she/her)

Daaniya completed her B.S. in Bioresource Science and Engineering (2019) at the University of Washington and is a CoMotion Mary Gates Innovation Scholar working with Global Water Labs. Her previous undergraduate research interests centered around the renewable energy field. Daaniya has worked on producing cellulosic ethanol from hybrid-poplar feedstock, yielding crude hydrocarbons from a fast pyrolysis reactor, evaluating hazard mitigation protocols for each county in Washington, and growing algae for biodiesel conversion. Daaniya first became interested in water treatment while working on a wastewater remediation project as a process engineering intern at Sonoco. Her desire to focus on water treatment applications led to her application to the Global Water Labs, and she looks forward to applying research concepts in a scalable commercial setting. She hopes to gain valuable experience as well as knowledge from her mentors in the AIMS lab over the summer. Daaniya enjoys playing badminton, perusing food blogs, attempting to play the drums, climbing stairs, and writing in her free time.

Kaylie Dennehy

Kaylie will be an undergraduate student at UW this fall in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering. During the summer of 2019, Kaylie was working with Yuemei investigating PFAS degradation.