Carnegie Mellon University
August 21, 2020

Riley Weatherholt Receives Steinbrenner Fellowship to Advance Environmental Research

Amanda Finkenbinder

The Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research at Carnegie Mellon University has selected Ph.D. student Riley Weatherholt as one of four 2020-2021 Steinbrenner Doctoral Research Fellows. The graduate fellowship program provides support to exceptional, second-year Carnegie Mellon students who work on cutting-edge environmental research. The interdisciplinary research projects' topics align with the Institute's strategic focus areas of energy transition strategies, and urban infrastructure and sustainable cities.

"This year, there were 12 outstanding applicants and we were able to award four Doctoral Fellowships, including one Presidential Doctoral Fellowship with additional support from the Heinz Endowments," said Steinbrenner Institute Director and Thomas Lord University Professor Neil Donahue.

Weatherholt is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemistry at CMU. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Kent State University in 2019 with B.S. degrees in Chemistry and Environmental & Conservation Biology, where she studied the movement of road salt ions through constructed wetlands. She now conducts Atmospheric and Environmental Chemistry research as a member of the Sullivan group in CMU’s Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies, and was awarded the Joseph A. Solomon Memorial Fellowship from the Department of Chemistry in 2019.

Riley’s research focuses on microdroplet-accelerated chemistry as it applies to the atmosphere and water quality. In collaboration with the Collins group in the Department of Chemistry at CMU, Riley is using the Aerosol Optical Tweezers to investigate the microdroplet-accelerated oxidation of persistent organic pollutants in wastewater using the TAML catalyst in microdroplets. She is also investigating the pH gradient within aqueous microdroplets, which has implications for atmospheric chemistry, climate models and synthesis.

Since 2007, 53 Ph.D. students from across the university have been recognized as Steinbrenner Doctoral Fellows. Researchers receive up to $50,000 and present their findings during a poster session at the annual Steinbrenner Institute Environmental Colloquium, held during the spring semester.

"The fellowship allows doctoral students early in their careers more freedom to set a solid course in their graduate research," said Donahue. "Fellows have gone on to a variety of faculty and industry careers."