The Team

David Sanchez, Ph. D.
Principal Investigator

Associate Professor Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering  Associate Director, Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation

Faculty – Happiness and Human Flourishing Initiative
Director Sustainability Faculty Fellows programProgram Director Master’s Sustainable Engineering Director- University Undergraduate Certificate SustainabilityASEE- Environmental Engineering – Past ChairASEE – North Central Section Chair
Frederick Honors College – Faculty Fellow
Director – ScholarCHEF
Appalachia Teaching Project Faculty
First-Year Engineering FacultyDesign Faculty – Swanson School Innovation/Entrepreneurship
Appointed Lead Faculty for Food Ecosystems Scholar Community (ScholarCHEF)                                                                          Senior Advisor Food21                                                                Advisor Community Research Fellowship                                      Faculty Co-PI – Appalachia Resilience Community – Teaching Project  Faculty Co – PI – Happiness and Human Flourishing                      David C. Frederick Honors College                                                      Global Programs Faculty


Gregg Kotchey Ph.D.

Ph.D. Chemistry

Current Projects: Micro-electrodes and Emerging Contaminants

Hassan Nawaz

Hello! I’m Hassan Nawaz. Originally from the beautiful lands of Pakistan, I am now honored to be a PhD research scholar at the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. Under the expert mentorship of Dr. David Sanchez, and having been a dedicated student of Dr. Muhammad Ibrahim, I’m delving deep into the transformative world of water and wastewater treatment. My primary research revolves around the utilization of Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs) – a cutting-edge innovation shaping the future of water purification. I am particularly passionate about addressing the challenges of arsenic and PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) contamination in water bodies.

But my journey with water purification and environmental challenges began much earlier. In the past, I’ve extensively worked on composting, especially hot composting. I spearheaded initiatives to understand how hot composting can aid in the removal of arsenic from plant tissues. This venture wasn’t just academic; it was about forging pathways for more sustainable agricultural practices. Moreover, recognizing the pressing water contamination issues in my homeland, I’ve dedicated time to study the removal of various pesticides from Pakistan’s water bodies. To me, research isn’t just about academia; it’s about making tangible improvements in the world around us.

In a nutshell, my journey in environmental science and engineering is fueled by passion, commitment, and a genuine desire to make a difference. Together, through research and collaboration, I believe we can pave the way for a brighter, cleaner future for our planet. 



Suraya Rahim

My name is Suraya Rahim, and I am from Afghanistan. I have a bachelor’s degree in Civil and Industrial Engineering from Kabul Polytechnic University, as well as a BBA in Operations Management from the American University of Afghanistan. I have worked with several international humanitarian organizations, including the World Food Program and UNFPA. I am actively pursuing a master’s degree in Sustainable Engineering with a concentration in environmental and water sustainability at the University of Pittsburgh, where I am concurrently conducting research which studies emerging contaminants in water and their biodegradation processes. After completing my degree, I plan to continue my research to help introduce new, sustainable technologies and practices that positively impact the environment on a global scale.

I chose to attend Pitt because of the Swanson School of Engineering’s world-class research facilities, supportive environment, and great cultural diversity. Furthermore, MCSI’s Sustainable Engineering program will give me the opportunity to develop sustainable solutions through applied learning projects and gain experience with real-world sustainability issues. I am highly passionate about addressing environmental challenges and integrating effective solutions, especially those in relation to water treatment. I believe that water is the most important part of our lives and is a crucial component of sustainable development, as it impacts us both socially and economically. Through my work, I aspire to improve not only our current quality of life, but that of future generations as well.

Kayla Trahey

B.S. Industrial Engineering


Aiden Landis

B.S. Chemical Engineering 2022                                                    M.S. Sustainable Engineering 


Brandon Cerminara

B.S. Chemical Engineering                                                    Application Engineer at Xylem Inc. 



Cameron Beichner

B.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 2017
Project: Agriculture in the Urban Environment
Current: Chief of Staff, Four Growers

Amy Blanchard

B.S. Environmental Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 2023
Current: Civil Associate I at Michael Baker International

Madelyn Buntin

B.S. Chemical Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 2016
Project: In-situ Photo-Catalytic Degradation of Off-Flavor Molecules in Aquaculture Systems
Current:Workface Planner, Bechtel

Daniel Chi

B.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 2018
Project: Agriculture in the Urban Environment
Current: CTO, Four Growers

Claire Chouinard

B.S. Chemical Engineering
Minors: Chemistry
Current Projects: PhD in Environmental Engineering at Yale University

Brandon Contino

B.S. Electrical Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 2018
Minors: Economics
Project: –
Current: CEO, Four Growers

Christian Ference

M.S. Environmental Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 2018
B.S. Chemical Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 2016
Projects: Agricultural Technology and Its Environmental Impact; Photo-Catalytic Degradation of Off-Flavor Molecules in Aquaculture Systems

Julie Fornaciari

B.S. Chemical Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 2017
Project: Microbial Fuel Cells
Current: Ph.D. Candidate, University of California, Berkeley

Adrian Garcia

B.S. Civil & Environmental Engineering
Project: Evaluation of Watersheds
Current: Research Engineer, MIT

Kevin Glunt

M.S. Mechanical Engineering
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Pittsburgh, 2016
Current Projects: PhD in Material Science

Michael Green

B.S. Mechanical Engineering
Project: Mapping Sustainable Engineering Phenomena to NGSS
Current: Ph.D. Student Arizona State University

Natan Herzog

BPhil Engineering Science – Mechanics
Current: Undergraduate Researcher in Applied Computational Fluid Dynamics Lab

Melina Hudson

B.S. Environmental Engineering
Current: Engineer at Greenman-Pedersen, Inc

Carlie Johnson

B.S. Environmental Engineering
Minors: Chemistry
Project: Smarter Riversheds                                                    Current: Full Time Engineering Assistant Gateway Engineers

Emily Klonicki

B.S. Microbiology, University of Pittsburgh, 2018
Minors: Environmental Engineering, Chemistry
Project: Microbial Fuel Cells
Current: Planetary Protection Engineer, Jet Propulsions Laboratory, NASA

Zachary W Miller

B.S. Mechanical Engineer
Project: In-situ Photo-Catalytic Degradation of Off-Flavor Molecules in Aquaculture Systems                                                              Current: Engineer at MSA

Katelyn Morrison

B.S. Computer Science
Project: Computational Sustainability
Current: PhD in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University 



Christine Nguyen

B.S. Computer Engineering
Project: Sustainable Engineering Education
Current: Data Scientist Arizona State University

David Rounce Ph.D.

Ph.D. Water Resources Engineering
University of Texas A&M
Project: Glacial Modeling
Current: Assistant Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University 



John Walker

M.S. Education, University of California, Los Angeles
B.S. Civil Engineering
Project: Engineering Education
Current: LA DOE

Joe Zappitelli

B.S. Environmental Engineering
Project: Identifying National and Regional Opportunities for Urban Farming (Aquaculture/Hydroponics) operations.