Unsaturated Zone Technical Committee

The Committee is made up of researchers across the entire career spectrum - from students to senior faculty.

A brief introduction of each committee member is provided below.

Yusong Li (Chair)

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Yusong is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her research efforts have integrated modeling and experimental studies to understand complex physical, chemical and biological processes that govern flow and transport of contaminants in the environmental systems across multiple scales. She teaches courses at both undergraduate and graduate levels, including Introduction to Water Resources Engineering, Groundwater Engineering, Fate and Transport of Contaminants in Porous Media, and Computational Problem Solving in Civil Engineering. Dr. Li obtained her B.S. and M.S. degrees from Tsinghua University in China, a Ph.D. degree from Vanderbilt University. She worked as a postdoctoral associate for three years at Tufts University.

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Joaquin Jimenez-Martinez (Deputy Chair)

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Joaquín is since 2016 Research Scientist (Group Leader) at EAWAG (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology) and Lecturer and Research Associate at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering-ETH Zurich. He is also Guest Scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory (US). His research focuses on the study of transport and reaction phenomena in porous and fractured media, particularly in multiphase systems. He tackles these problems mainly by experiments performed over scales ranging from micromodels to field scale, and blending them with theory and modeling. After graduating (BSc) in Geological Sciences from University of Granada (Spain), and to obtain the Certificate of Advanced Studies in Geotechnical Engineering (MSc) at the Technical University of Catalonia (Barcelona, Spain) in 2007, he obtained his PhD degree in Hydrogeology at the same university in 2010. He was then a Postdoctoral Fellow at the CNRS-University of Rennes 1 in France (2010-2012), and subsequently awarded as titular of the International Chair on Environment and Innovation (Foundation Rennes 1) (2012-2014). He completed his formation as Post-doc Research Associate at Los Alamos National Laboratory, US (2014-2016).

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Teamrat A. Ghezzehei (Past Chair)

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Thomas Phelan

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Raghavendra Jana (Director - Communications)

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Raghu is a Senior Research Scientist in the Center for Computational and Data-Intensive Science and Engineering at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), Moscow, Russia. His main area of expertise is in vadose zone hydrology. His current research interests include numerical, statistical, and physical modeling of environmental processes, remote sensing, data analysis, and research computation. In the past, his research included exploring the variability and dynamics of soil hydraulic properties and water content at multiple scales. Raghu has a Ph. D. and M. E. from Texas A&M University. Before Skoltech, he worked at the Indian Institute of Science (India), King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia), University of Stuttgart (Germany), and Texas A&M University (USA). 

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Manoj Shukla

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Dr. Manoj Shukla currently serves as the Director of ACES Global Programs and Aggies Go Global. He is a Professor of Soil Physics in the College of Agriculture Consumer and Environmental Sciences, New Mexico State University. He also serves Associate Editor for the Soil Science Society of America Journal, Editor Book Review for Vadose Zone Journal, and member of the Unsaturated Zone technical committee for the American Geophysical Union. His recognition in the scientific community has resulted in invitations to speak at meetings and conferences in the U.S., China, India, Israel, and Mexico. Dr. Shukla is the Nakayama Research Excellence Professorship, and recipient of Patricia Christmore Faculty Teaching Award and the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture award. Dr. Shukla has written three books and co-authored 120-refereed journal articles. His current research focus is on assessing and modeling the impact of abiotic stresses caused by brackish groundwater and RO concentrate irrigation on soil, plants, and microbial communities as well as modeling water, nitrate and energy transport through soil.

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Thomas Harter

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Joshua Larsen

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Kathleen M. Smits

KateSmits Kate is an associate professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. She served as a civil engineer in the U.S. Air Force from 1999-2007 and on the faculty of the U.S. Air Force Academy and later at the Colorado School of Mines from 2004- 2018.  Her research interests are focused on shallow subsurface multiphase processes affected by flux dynamics at the land/atmosphere interface.  The motivation to Smits’ research group is to answer questions applied to many current and emerging problems such as greenhouse gas emissions, evapotranspiration, agricultural yields, the remediation of contaminated soil, and natural gas migration and release. Kate is the science communication editor of Vadose Zone Journal.  She earned her B.S. in environmental engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy, M.S. in Civil Engineering Water Resources from the University of Texas, Austin, and PhD in civil and environmental engineering from Colorado School of Mines.

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Clare Robinson

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Wei Zhang

WeiZhang Dr. Wei Zhang is an Associate Professor of Environmental and Soil Physics at Michigan State University (MSU), USA. He received his Ph.D. degree in Environmental Engineering from Cornell University in 2010, his MS degree in Biosystems Engineering from Oklahoma State University in 2006, and his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Chemistry from Nanjing University in 2000. Wei is broadly interested in the quality and sustainability of soil and water resources, and recently focuses on environmental processes and impacts of emerging contaminants (e.g., antibiotics, antibiotic resistant bacteria, antibiotic resistance genes, engineered nanoparticles and emerging microbial pathogens) in soil, water and plant systems. As of December 2019 Wei serves as an Associate Editor for Journal of Environmental Quality, and Canadian Journal of Soil Science. He is the 2020 Chair of the Soils & Environmental Quality Division in Soil Science Society of America. He previously received the USDA New Investigator Award, US National Research Council Research Associateship Award, and Cornell Liu Memorial Award.

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Chadi Sayde

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Ryan Stewart

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Ryan Stewart is an Assistant Professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech. Prior to arriving at Virginia Tech in 2013, he obtained his B.S. degree (2002) in Mechanical Engineering from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and his M.S. (2010) and Ph.D. (2013) degrees in Water Resources Engineering from Oregon State University. He currently leads the Critical Zone Lab at Virginia Tech, which focuses on predicting the movement of water, nutrients and contaminants by measuring and modeling soil properties and hydrological processes. His group works in various systems, from forested headwater catchments to urban soils to agricultural fields. Dr. Stewart teaches classes on pollution science and on soil physical and hydrological properties, including soil health. In his spare time he enjoys family time, gardening, and the occasional mountain biking adventure.

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Lirong Zhong

LirongZhong Dr. Zhong is a senior research scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). His research interests cover a broad range of areas that pertain to subsurface science and characterization, contaminant fate and transport, aquifer and vadose zone remediation engineering, enhanced petroleum recovery, geological carbon storage and sequestration. He has initiated and lead researches on the development of technologies in enhancing the delivery and distribution of remedial amendment to the subsurface, including foam-delivery to the unsaturated zone and shear thinning fluid-based delivery to saturated zone. He has lead researches in contaminant mobilization by supercritical carbon dioxide and the fate of mobilized compounds, gaseous treatment for vadose zone remediation, on the surfactant enhanced aquifer remediation (SEAR), enhanced vadose zone non-aqueous phase liquid (NAPL) removal and vadose zone metal/radionulides immobilization, in situ chemical oxidation (ISCO), and bioremediation. Dr. Zhong obtained his B.S from Hunan University of Science and Technology, China; M.S. from Nanjing University, China, and Ph.D. from Michigan Technological University, MI. USA. He was a post doctorial research associate at the University of Texas, Austin, USA and a visiting scientist in the University of Rennes 1, France.

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Veronica Morales (Associate Director - Communications)

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Verónica L. Morales joined the faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California at Davis in 2017 as an Assistant Professor. Her research focuses on the study of fate and transport in porous media, specifically on the physico-chemical processes of colloid/nanoparticle filtration, coupling between pore structure arrangement and flow heterogeneity, and upscaling pore-scale dynamics to better describe macroscopic transport phenomena. Veronica completed her graduate studies at Cornell University in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (MS, 2007) and Biological and Environmental Engineering (Ph.D, 2011). She then moved to Europe to complete her postdoctoral training as a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellow at the SIMBIOS Centre, and later as an AXA Research Fund fellow at ETH Zürich.

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Jason Gurdak

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Ian Molnar

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Nandita Gaur

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Shahab Karimifard

ShahabKarimifard Shahab Karimifard is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Civil Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a specialization in water resources engineering. He works on an NSF-funded project about biofilms and contaminant transport in porous media. His main research interests are fate and transport of contaminants in the environment, environmental nanotechnology, and optimization of water/wastewater treatment technologies

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Bo Gao

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Zhen Li

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