Current Members

Dr. Erica Majumder


Principal Investigator

I have a PhD in Bioinorganic Chemistry and am interested in deciphering the mechanisms of novel microbial metabolisms that drive aspects of environmental sustainability. When I’m not in the lab, I enjoy playing the cello in a community orchestra, reading and exploring the trails around Madison by foot, bike and kayak.

Charles N. Olmsted


Ph.D.: Molecular and Environmental Toxicology


Hi, I’m Charles! I received my BS at UW-Madison in microbiology studying genetic pathways for lignin degradation. I received my PhD at UW-Madison studying the ecology of electroactive bacterioplankton in bog lakes. My current postdoctoral research is all about converting PET waste plastic into the biodegradable polyester PHA by engineering the extreme thermophilic bacteria, Thermus thermophilus. My hobbies include writing and illustrating sci-fi-fantasy novels and spending time with my dog

Fuad Shatara


Graduate student: Environmental Chemistry and Technology

I received my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) with minors in both Environmental Science and Mass Communication. My research interests are in environmental health, and I aim to find ways to bridge various fields of sciences to study how humans are influencing different natural systems. Currently, my research is focused on the interactions between plastics and microbes in the Great Lakes. When I’m not in lab, I enjoy video games, hammocking, hiking, and anything that involves being on or near water.

Damayanti Rodriguez Ramos


Graduate student: Microbiology Doctoral Training Program

Hello I am Dama! I did my undergraduate in the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico, Aguadilla Campus. During my undergraduate I majored in Biotechnology and did minors in Microbiology and Biology. My current research project is to study the interaction between plastics and microorganism in landfills. Further, investigate plastic-associated microbial community structure and activities located in such environments. When I am not in lab, I like to go the thrift stores, visit parks and watch cooking shows.

Chamia Chatman


Graduate student: Molecular & Environmental Toxicology

Hello, I’m Chamia. I am a PhD candidate in the Molecular and Environmental Toxicology graduate program.  I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign where I received a B.S. in Animal Sciences. Following undergrad, I worked for five years in an industry setting. When I’m not in lab I enjoy reading, dancing, and working on crossword puzzles. My current research is focused on elucidating how a summation of environmental exposures (the exposome) alters the cecal microbiome and metabolome of broiler chickens.

Robbie Mejia


Graduate student: Integrated Program in Biochemistry

Hey, I’m Robbie! I got my B.S. in Biochemistry from California State University, Long Beach with a minor in Biology. My research interest lies in the development of sustainable methodologies and bioproducts. Currently, I am working on metabolic engineering for the microbial production of biological polymers and using transmission electron microscopy to observe microbial interactions with microplastics.

In my spare time I enjoy craft beer, horror movies, reading, concerts, and exploring Madison.

Rachel Rovinsky


Graduate student: Microbiology Doctoral Training Program

Hello I’m Rachel! I did my undergraduate education at UC Berkeley where I majored in Microbial Biology and minored in Education. Overall, I aim to conduct research that contributes to building sustainable infrastructure. My current research focus is on waste conversion to bioplastics, specifically using engineered microbes and microbial communities to convert a mixture of acid whey waste and paper mill waste to polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), a class of bioplastics. When I am not in lab, I like to figure skate, knit, and play with my cat, Chowder.   

Catherine J Pettinger


Graduate Student: Molecular & Environmental Toxicology

Hi! I’m Catherine. My undergraduate degree is in Biochemistry with a minor in Music from the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University in central Minnesota. Currently, I am researching microorganisms in the subsurface and how they can contribute to uranium flushing from a contaminated site. In my spare time, I enjoy exploring the outdoors, reading, and gardening.

Azul Kothari


Undergraduate Student: Materials Science Engineering and Biochemistry

As a senior double majoring in Materials Science Engineering and Biochemistry, I’m a big believer in interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving. Since joining the team, I’ve been helping Fuad carry out a research project studying interactions between microplastics and cyanobacteria. Do microplastic chemistries, characteristics and concentrations impact Harmful Algal Blooms? Stay tuned, and hopefully we’ll have some answers for you!

Outside the lab, you can find me leading my South Asian acapella group in Bollywood song, writing science news for the Badger Herald, or baking delicious thin crust pizza

Ethan Seng

Undergraduate student: Microbiology

Hey, I’m a Junior majoring in microbiology with a certificate in the biocore program. Sustainability research is a big interest of mine. I have been helping Robbie with his project to use waste streams to create biodegradable plastics. Outside the lab you can find me running with the Wisconsin Track Club, writing short stories, hiking, or playing board games.

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