Four Princeton undergraduates named 2021 HMEI Environmental Scholars

Morgan Kelly ・ High Meadows Environmental Institute

Princeton University sophomores Yaxin Duan, Chirag Kumar and Aneesha Manocha were selected to receive up to $16,000 from the High Meadows Environmental Institute’s (HMEI) Environmental Scholars Program over the next two years in support of environmental research related to their junior and senior independent work. Princeton junior and 2020 Environmental Scholar Hannah Reynolds received continued funding.

Established in 2011 with a gift from Elizabeth A. Smith and Ray E. Newton III ’86, the Environmental Scholars program supports students who have shown excellence in academics and select HMEI summer internships, and who have a clearly articulated research agenda culminating in fieldwork. Students are initially nominated to apply during the fall semester of their sophomore year and are selected by committee.

Duan, in chemical and biological engineering, received support for her project, “Direct Visualization of Chemotactic Bacteria Behavior in Transparent Porous Media.” She will explore the behavior of the bacteria Pseudomonas putida ​in porous media such as soil in order to advance the application of bacteria in the biodegradation of environmental contaminants. Duan is advised by Sujit Datta, assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering.

Chirag Kumar

Kumar, whose major is undeclared, received funding for his project, “Integrating Climate into Fungal Pathogenic Evolutionary Models.” Kumar will combine field and computational work to develop a technique that public health officials can use to predict the influence of climate change on the prevalence and evolution of serious fungal infections such as thrush. He plans to create a generalizable framework for considering climate and evolution. Kumar is advised by Ramanan Laxminarayan, senior research scholar in Princeton’s High Meadows Environmental Institute.

Aneesha ManochaManocha, an electrical and computer engineering major, was selected for her project, “Macro-Energy System Modeling in India to Find Least-Cost Decarbonization Pathways.” Her goal is to develop and demonstrate a national power-system model for India that can help policymakers better plan for achieving decarbonization by 2050. Manocha is advised by Jesse Jenkins, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.

Hannah Reynolds

Reynolds, who studies anthropology, received continued funding for her project, “A Study on Biocultural Diversity: Indigenous Language Loss and the Loss of Biodiversity.” With a focus on environmental justice, Reynolds is studying the connections between Indigenous language, culture and land use in Southeast Alaska, primarily by conducting surveys and interviews in the region. Reynolds is advised by Christiane Fellbaum, lecturer with the rank of professor in the Council of the Humanities, linguistics, the freshman seminars, and computer science.