Lab Members

Principal Investigator

Dr. Ruth Richardson 

I am an associate professor with a background in chemical engineering (BS) and environmental engineering (PhD).  My general research interests are in understanding the behavior and activities of microorganisms in complex communities – and using molecular biological tools to explore these communities.  The systems my lab group studies are dechlorinating communities, biofuels, and wastewater bioreactors.  In Ithaca, I also spend some time playing sports and I enjoy a wide range of music and dance.

Graduate Students

Susan Foster, Class of 2023

Nan Wang (3rd year PhD student). I’m a PhD student who joined the Richardson lab in August, 2019. I’m from CEE – Environmental Process. My research focus is Cyanobacteria Harmful Algae=l Blooms, focusing on the ecology aspects. During my spare time I enjoy ping-pong, swimming, hiking, and cooking.

Kelly Xavier, Class of 2022

Marcin Sawczuk (4th year PhD student). I started my PhD. at Cornell CEE in August 2018, following the Environmental Processes concentration. My current research is geared towards improving efficiency of the water treatment systems, particularly focusing on the low-energy treatment technologies. Before coming to Cornell, I graduated in Chemical Engineering at the Technical University of Denmark. In my free time, I love practicing martial arts and being outdoors.

Jingyi Wu (4th Year Ph.D Student) I started my PhD at Cornell CEE in August 2018. In the first half of my PhD studies, I focused on the water toxicity evolution through wastewater and drinking water treatment processes, especially toxicogenomics-based fingerprinting of disinfection byproducts and identification of toxicity drivers. Now I’m intrigued by the future of our wastewater treatment facilities, with focuses on the techno-economic analysis and life cycle analysis of new energy and resource recovery technologies. Before I came to Cornell, I graduated from Peking University with B.S. in Environmental Science and B.Ec. in Economics (dual degree). In my free time, I enjoy climbing and hiking.

Undergraduate Researchers

Susan Foster, Class of 2023

Susie Foster (Junior, BS in Environmental Engineering). I’m an Undergraduate Environmental Engineer who joined the lab in December of 2020. I am testing beaches for traces of human and animal associated DNA using qPCR, my research is specifically interested in the beaches in Puerto Rico. During my free time I like sailing, hiking, and drawing.

Kelly Xavier, Class of 2022

Kelly Xavier (Senior, BS in Computer Science). I am an undergraduate majoring in Computer Science who joined the lab in January 2019. I am currently coding an application to aid in the analysis of harmful algal blooms. During my free time, I like skiing, playing the drums, and watching movies with friends.

Joseph S. Nocua-Tole, Class of 2024

Joseph S. Nocua-Tole (Sophomore, BS in Biological Engineering). I am an undergraduate Biological Engineering Student. I joined Richardson Lab over the summer of 2021, and my research focuses on Harmful Algal Blooms. In the lab I’m currently working on an ELI-grant supported project to contrast ImageJ-based bloom toxicity identification methods with traditional qPCR-based methods. Outside of the lab, I enjoy soccer, hiking, cooking, and videogames.

Valerie Aubley, Class of 2022

Valerie Aubley (Senior, BS in Biological & Environmental Engineering). I’m an undergraduate majoring in Biological & Environmental Engineering and joined the lab in June 2020. In the lab, I carry out fluorescent microscopy and handheld scoping to compare the composition of different algal blooms. I also work with Kelly on creating an image-based coding program that identifies bloom toxicity. Outside of the lab, I’m a part of Cornell’s Gymnastics team and love to hike, run and surf.

Lab Alumni


  • Dr. Yolanda Brooks (2016-2018) Currently Assistant Professor at St. Joseph’s College of Maine
  • Dr. Catherine Spirito (2018) Currently Assistant Teaching Professor at University of Maryland
  • Dr. Kurt Rhoads (2010-12), co-advised with Beth Ahner, BEE; currently Assistant Professor, Case Western University
  • Dr. Jeff Werner (2008-10); currently Associate Professor at SUNY Cortland and Adjunct BEE Dept, Cornell
  • Dr. Robert Morris (2006 – 2008) co-advised with Prof Steve Zinder; currently Associate Professor, University of Washington

Grad Students:

  • Egidio Tentori (PhD 2021) Currently employed in environmental consulting
  • Andrew St. James (PhD 2021) Currently Assistant Teaching Professor, Wake Forest University
  • Cristina Fernandez-Baca (PhD 2018) Currently AAAS Science and Policy Fellow, Washington, D.C.
  • Emma Mosier (MEng 2018)
  • Lingzi Xia (MS 2019), employed in public sector in China
  • Yating Li (MS 2019)
  • Anne Otwell (PhD 2016) Currently AAAS Science and Policy Fellow, Washington, D.C.
  • Tiffany Lee (MEng 2017)
  • Cresten Mansfeldt (PhD 2014), NSF Graduate Fellow, currently Assistant Professor, University of Colorado at Boulder
  • Gretchen Heavner (PhD 2013), employed in environmental consulting
  • Annette Rowe (PhD 2011), NSF Graduate Fellow, currently Assistant Professor, University of Cinncinnati
  • Brian Rahm (PhD 2008), currently Director of the Water Resources Institute of NY
  • Jing Zhao (MS 2016),
  • Amber Li (MS 2016),
  • Qiaochu Wang (MS 2015),
  • Yitian Sun (MS 2014),
  • Xian Zhang (MS 2012)
  • Prayut Bhamawat (MS 2011),
  • Brendan Lazar (MS 2006),
  • Rohit Gupta (MS 2003),
  • JinGi Hong (MS 2006),
  • Crystal Powers (MS 2007; co-advised with Norm Scott, BEE)


  • Erica Gardner (2018)
  • Amir Omar (2018)
  • Justin Bae (Biological Sciences, 2018)
  • Jesse Pollard (2018)
  • Fiona Woods (2017)
  • Andrew Kim (2017)
  • Fanny Okaikue (2016)
  • Walker Grimshaw (2015)
  • Ethan Keller (2015)
  • Larry Ge (2015)
  • Alyson Gruber (2015)
  • Amiel Middelman (2015)
  • Vandana Swaminathan (2014)
  • Alex Hernsdorf (2014)
  • Garrett Debs (2014)
  • Bridget Hegarty (2014)
  • Melissa Hartleb (2014)
  • Nicholas Parisi (2014)
  • Sage Hellerstedt (2012)
  • Ju Khuan Pan (2012)
  • Vishal Bhagwanas (2012)
  • Micheal Degan (2010)
  • Ryan Walter (Civil & Environmental Engineering, 2009)
  • Eric Kopache (Biological Engineering) (2009)
  • Jessica Oribabor (Civil & Environmental Engineering) (2009)
  • Kaitlin Hanley (Biological Enigneering, 2008)
  • Melina Diaconis (Civil & Environmental Engineering, 2008)
  • Ting Daphne Ng (Chemical Engineering, 2008)
  • Micheal Gifford (Civil & Environmental Engineering, 2007)
  • Scott Duda (Civil & Environmental Engineering, 2007)
  • Christine Tran (Chemical Engineering, 2007)
  • Kenneth Sauer (Biological Engineering, 2008)
  • Rami Zahr, (Chemical Engineering, 2007)
  • Jan Ma (Chemical Engineering, 2007)
  • Shubha Bhar (Civil & Environmental Engineering, 2006)
  • Morgan Rog (Civil & Environmental Engineering, 2006)
  • Asha Marathe, (Chemical Engineering, 2005)
  • Alana Jonat (Microbiology, 2005)
  • Emily Warren (Chemical Engineering, 2005)
  • Lindsay Ellis (Civil & Environmental Engineering, 2005)
  • Mindy Sun (Biological Engineering, 2005)
  • Orvill Delatorre