Current Members


Group Picture October 2017
From left to right: Caroll, Mina, Rebecca, Ludmilla Aristilde, Anna, Sabrina, Krista, Sean, Annie, Reid, Irene


Ludmilla Aristilde, Ph.D.

Faculty Profile
2012–Present, Assistant Professor, Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University
2017, Invited Professor by the Université Grenoble-Alpes, Institut des Sciences de la Terre, Grenoble, France
2015, Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future Faculty Fellow
Graduate Field Memberships: (1) Biological and Environmental Engineering; (2) Environmental Toxicology; (3) Soil and Crop Sciences; (4) Microbiology; (5) Geological Sciences; (6) Civil and Environmental Engineering.

2009-2012, NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, Princeton University
2008-2009, Fulbright Scholar, Grenoble, France
2008, Ph.D. Molecular Toxicology, University of California-Berkeley
2004, M.S. Environmental Engineering, University of California-Berkeley
2003, B.F.A. Fine Arts, Cornell University
2003, B.S. Science of Earth Systems, Cornell University

I am interested in the mechanisms responsible for the behavior of organic molecules in the environment. The activities in my research group apply both experimental and modeling approaches to elucidate the mechanisms that control the physical and biological fate of these molecules. Our current projects investigate bacterial metabolism of natural organic substrates, interactions of organic contaminants with natural particles, bacterial response to organic contaminants, and nutrient-cycling extracellular enzymes.

Contact Information:
Cornell University, 214 Riley Robb


Annaleise Klein

Postdoctoral Associate, Biological and Environmental Engineering, 2016-Present

Ph.D. Biogeochemistry, La Trobe University, Australia, 2016
B. Sc. in Environmental Management and Ecology (with Honours), La Trobe University, Australia, 2009

I am currently intrigued by the interactions of organic ligands with mineral substrates at the molecular level, in particular how the stereochemistry changes between the organo-mineral and metal-ligand complexes. My research involves combining spectroscopic and metabolomic techniques, along with molecular modelling, to understand the drivers behind organo-mineral interfacial interactions important in environmental chemistry and environmental engineering processes.

Krista Barzen-Hanson

Postdoctoral Associate, Biological and Environmental Engineering, 2017-Present

Ph.D. Chemistry, Oregon State University, 2017
B.A. Chemistry, College of Saint Benedict, 2013

I am interested in deciphering the metabolic pathways of soil bacteria under nutrient conditions and characterizing the specialized compounds secreted by these bacteria. My research findings will determine how crop-beneficial bacteria compete for and promote nutrient acquisition. These strategies can also be exploited in environmental biotechnology for engineering organic carbon transformation and cycling.


Sabrina Kelch

Ph.D. Student, Soil and Crop Sciences, 2016-Present

B.S. Natural Resources and Environmental Science, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, 2016

I am interested in understanding how the chemistries of microbial and plant organic secretions influence their fate within the soil matrix, with respect to their interactions with minerals. I am particularly interested on how the different fates of these organic molecules affect soil physical properties such as soil moisture retention and soil aggregation.

Rebecca Wilkes

M.S./Ph.D. Student, Biological and Environmental Engineering, 2016-Present

B.S. Biology, Washington and Jefferson College, 2015

I am interested in cleaning up the environment using bioremediation techniques. I am particularly interested in the mechanisms underlying microbial degradation of plastics in different environmental matrices.

Mina Sohltalab

Ph.D. Student, Biological and Environmental Engineering, 2017-Present

B.S. Cell and Molecular Biology, Shahed University, Iran, 2011
M.Sc. Cell and Molecular Biology, Shiraz University, Iran, 2015

I am interested in studying enzyme-catalyzed reactions. Understanding the molecular basis of the enzyme structure-function relationship is required to predict catalytic activities and inform protein engineering. I am currently studying beta-glucosidase, which catalyzes a rate-limiting step in carbon turnover in terrestrial ecosystems and in engineered biofuel production.

Sean Murphy

Ph.D. Student, Microbiology (Rotation), 2017-Present

B.S. Microbiology, University of Massachusetts Amherst
M.Sc. Microbiology, University of Massachusetts Amherst

I am passionate about the metabolic, respiratory, and ecological processes of subsurface anaerobic microorganisms. I am interested in how bacterial functional diversity drives biogeochemical cycling, transformations of inorganic and organic molecules, and the intersection of these subjects with environmental biotechnology..


Cloelle Danforth

Visiting Scholar, 2016-Present

B.S. Engineering Science, Smith College
M.S. Civil and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University
Ph.D. Civil and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University

I am a visiting scholar from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) where I hold a position as a Postdoctoral Science Fellow in the office of the Chief Scientist. I have been working primarily with the Oil and Gas Team, working to minimize impacts of oil and gas development on surface and groundwater. I am collaborating with the Aristilde group to develop new computational tools for predicting the potential impacts of chemicals associated with wastewater from unconventional oil and gas development.


Caroll Mendonca

Research Technician, Biological and Environmental Engineering, 2017-Present

B.Eng. Biotechnology, Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering, Mysore, India, 2016
M.Eng. Biological and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University, 2017

My current research focus is to study the major metabolic pathways controlling the metabolism of mixed substrates by soil bacteria in response to nutrient-limited conditions. My long-term interest is to solve environmental problems using biological, socio-economical, pollution, and public health perspectives.



Reid Balkind

Biological and Environmental Engineering
Class of 2018

Research Topic: Characterization of natural organic matter and contaminant mobility
Lab Mentor: Ludmilla Aristilde and Annaleise Klein


Irene Sarri

Civil and Environmental Engineering
Class of 2019

Research Topic: Trapping of organic contaminants by mineral particles
Lab Mentor: Ludmilla Aristilde and Annaleise Klein


Anne Werner

Biological Sciences
Class of 2020

Research Topic: Nutrient-dependent bacterial carbon metabolism
Lab Mentor: Ludmilla Aristilde and Caroll Mendonca


Soil and Water Lab


Brian Richards

Senior Research Associate

Steve Pacenka

Steve Pacenka

Research Support Specialist

Researchers from the Soil and Water Lab are working with our group to assess the mobility of herbicides applied to fields following rain events during multiple seasons.

McBride Lab

Murray B. McBride

Professor, Soil and Crop Sciences Section, School of Integrative Plant Science

The McBride Lab is collaborating with our lab to investigate the mechanisms that control the role of organic biomineral crystals produced by plants and microorganisms in trapping of toxic trace metals.