Dr. Neal Blair, Principal Investigator

blairResearch: C-cycling in surficial environments (sediments, soils, rivers, ocean) is the overarching theme of my research. The behavior of organic materials is of special interest with a focus on what processes control the oxidation and /or preservation of organic C. Research projects have included the biogeochemistry of methane production and oxidation, the interaction of benthic macrofauna with sedimentary organic C, the evolution of organic C as it is transported through watersheds and across the seafloor, and the role of soil fungi in the sequestration of organic C.

Curriculum Vitae





PhD Students

Jieun Kim

IMG_7595As an incoming Ph.D. student, I am interested in developing derivatizing methods to convert non-volatile biopolymers to volatile compounds. This is key for both discovering prospective alternative energy feedstocks, which will act as a bridge leading us to solve the energy security and environmental problems, and tracking biomarkers for comprehensive understanding of the interactions of environmental spheres. Before joining Professor Blair’s research group, I received my Master’s degree in Environment & Energy from Sejong University in Korea. For my Master’s thesis, I studied the development of a novel transesterification/esterification method for the analysis of fatty acids and its environmental applications. It involved lipid analysis of potential biodiesel feedstocks and quantification of VFAs in the aqueous phase.





Undergraduate Students

John Hayes

IMG_4312.jpgI am a senior graduating with a double major in Environmental Sciences and Earth and Planetary Sciences. I investigate carbon storage change in sediments and soils resulting from anthropogenic influence. Flash tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH) thermochemolysis linked to a GC-MS allows me to measure a wide range of biomarkers, illuminating the sources and quantities of organic carbon to a system. Carbon cycle effects associated with modern agricultural practices and food production are of particular interest to my research.









Nina Zhou


Hello! My name is Nina and I’m a third year student majoring in biology and psychology. I’ve worked in Professor Blair’s lab since my first year at Northwestern. During that time, I have worked on the CZO project as a research assistant. Additionally, I have conducted my own research on the impact of agriculture on the carbon cycle in Lake Decatur that was funded using an Academic Year URG, and Summer URG. In the project, I utilized density separation and isotope signals in order to try to find a correlation between agricultural corn inputs and the isotope signals of sediment. 









Rachel So

IMG_9887I am currently a sophomore double majoring in Environmental Science and Earth and Planetary Sciences. My research focuses on carbonate quantification in sediment and soil samples using Diffused Reflectance Infrared Fourier-Transform (DRIFT) spectroscopy. Another part of my project involves identifying carbonate type (e.g. calcite, dolomite) using DRIFT and attempting to pinpoint possible origins of said carbonate. In relation to the IML-CZO project, I hope to connect my findings to other data collected for the CZO and investigate possible cause-effect relationships between the different data sets.










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