Meet Our Graduate Students

Daniel (Dan) Kennedy

Dan Kennedy

“Working closely with Professors Guzina and Labuz has been great. I am not micromanaged and am given plenty of intellectual freedom to explore different research ideas (some successful, some not). Professor Guzina has a great technical background and helps keep my research on track. Professor Labuz has found great ways for me to get involved with the department. For example, I helped organize the 2020 annual UMN Geotechnical Engineering Conference and am also helping organize the upcoming 2021 Conference. My participation has given me the chance to get to know a number of engineers and professors in the field. Professor Labuz also got me involved with the UMN Discover STEM camps where we demonstrated concepts related to soil mechanics (shear strength, angle of repose, and liquefaction) to visiting high school students.”

Read more about Kennedy and his research

Svetlana Baranova

Graduate Student Svetlana Baranova

Baranova grew up in a small city in Siberia and went to the Novosibirsk State University, one of the best physics programs in Russia. After completing her Master’s degree in physics, Baranova worked with Schlumberger, the largest gas and oil service company in the world as a field engineer in Siberia, above the polar circle. After two years, she came to UMN to do more research. “My heart is drawn to this technical part of research! My interest is not in a specific area of application, but in the process of solving mathematical problems.”

Read more about Baranova's passion for mathematical modeling

Emma O'Leary

Emma O'Leary

Emma O'Leary (BCE 2018, MS 2020) father was an environmental engineer, so she was always aware that environmental engineering was a career possibility. She also saw that “the need is everywhere. Clean water is a need everywhere—places like Haiti, but also the Appalachians, and Flint, Michigan. I have family near Flint. Clean water supply is becoming less available as the population grows.”

Read more about Emma O'Leary's experience

Rachel Tenney

Rachel Tenney is beginning her research in environmental engineering

Rachel Tenney, a Ph.D. student co-advised by Professors Tim LaPara and Paige Novak, was selected to receive a Minnesota Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Scholar Award for the academic years of 2019-2021. Tenney researches how nitrogen is removed in wastewater treatment ponds.

Tenney will perform laboratory and field research to understand how nitrogen is removed in wastewater treatment ponds during winter and spring months when the temperature drops and ice cover can cause decreased oxygen levels. Tenney will also study how interventions, such as simple paddle mixing and aeration, can improve nitrogen removal in reactors designed to model pond systems. Her research will help the State of Minnesota understand how to improve nitrogen removal in wastewater treatment ponds when needed, protecting the quality and safety of surface water and groundwater.

Read more about Rachel Tenney's award

Anndee Huff

Anndee Huff

Anndee Huff knew she wanted to get involved with the environment from very early on. She grew up in the Twin Cities and attended the School of Environmental Studies, affectionately known as “the Zoo School” because it is located on the grounds of the Minnesota Zoo. The alternative high school emphasizes awareness of the environment. She is now completing her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota.

“After college, I worked as an engineering consultant for Black & Veatch. I got to explore water problems up and down the west coast, and really learned what water/wastewater engineers do. That is what brought me back to graduate school in August 2016. I was drawn to the University of Minnesota because Paige Novak offered me the opportunity to work on an interesting, relevant, and very applicable project, looking at removal of nitrogen from wastewater."

Read more about Anndee Huff's research

Juliet Johnston

Juliet Johnston

Juliet Johnston, a PhD student, puts her interests in microbes to work at a wastewater treatment facility in Brainerd, MN. At the facility, the researchers would have to collect samples every 10 minutes within a five hour reaction cycle. While sampling, they would have to run up two flights of stairs to complete the entire sample process. Johnston has stayed overnight to collect these samples five times in one season!

Johnston studies microbes in wastewater treatment and how microbes vary through seasons under Sebastian Behrens, her adviser. One of Johnston’s past professors was a microbial biologist who studied how microbes worked doing remediation, which inspired the PhD student greatly.

She is also involved in the organization Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) and is the organizer for Queer Science Day, the first in the nation. Queer Science Day is a daylong event that allows LGBTQ+ high school students to perform experiments with other LGBTQ+ scientists and ask questions or network. The event also hosts various college prep days in which students can talk to the scientists and get advice on their college applications.

Anna Liakou

Anna Liakou

Post-Doctoral Associate

ANNA LIAKOU (Ph.D. 2017) has big, expressive eyes, a husky, Greek-accented voice, and a ready laugh. She came to CEGE from Greece via Milwaukee with a degree in civil engineering and a strong desire to study mathematics.

Liakou’s passion for mathematics is not surprising; it is a passion she shares with many Greeks, a passion they consider a defining part of their culture and heritage. What early Greeks discovered still shapes what we understand about mathematics. “I share an interest in mathematics with my father; we both enjoy everything to do with math. I wanted to study pure mathematics, but my father who is an engineer argued, ‘Go into engineering and you will find math!’ So, he influenced me and I earned an engineering degree in Greece.”

Read more about Anna Liakou