Cochrane Fellowship Fund

Established in 2017 by Dr. John J. Cochrane, Professor Emeritus and former Department Chair of the Northeastern University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Cochrane Fellowship Fund provides opportunities for doctoral students to explore cutting edge research and education at Northeastern University. The fellowship provides select students studying in the area of Environmental Engineering or Science full funding for the first academic year, allowing them to conduct research and progress in their coursework while working toward their PhD with their faculty advisors.

group photo
From left to right in the back row: 2019 Fellow Max Rome, 2017 Fellow Katherine Vilardi, 2018 Fellow Michael Knapp, Jack Cochrane, 2018 Fellow Alanna Sparagna, 2019 Fellow Benjamin Gincley, CDM Smith Professor and Chair Jerry Hajjar. Seated, from left to right, Assistant Professor Ameet Pinto, Associate Professor Edward Beighley.

Ben Eck

A Massachusetts native, Ben graduated from MIT with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering and a minor in Mechanical Engineering. Combining these two fields, Ben spent the last several years in the industry implementing sensor networks for water quality monitoring and control. Recognizing that both data methods and novel sensor fabrication technologies will be necessary to enable transformative distributed water quality sensing, Ben joined Northeastern’s Civil and Environmental Engineering department to pursue a PhD in Civil Engineering with a concentration in Data and Systems. Ben works with Assistant Professor Amy Mueller on developing game-changing nitrate sensors for coastal water quality and aquaculture monitoring.

Michelle O’Donnell

Michelle O’Donnell is a Northeastern graduate (BS Environmental Science, 2016), and as an undergraduate did co-ops with the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration in the River Instream Flow Stewards program, the USGS in the New England Water Science Center, and the Coastal Systems Group at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. After graduating, Michelle worked as the Watershed Management Assistant at the Cambridge Water Department, where she monitored water quality and quantity to inform reservoir management decisions. Most recently, she completed her MS in Civil Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder with Dr. Ben Livneh investigating how changes in snowpack in the West will impact warm-season streamflow. As a PhD in Civil Engineering student working with Dr. Samuel Munoz, Michelle is focusing on integrating paleoflood records with hydrologic models. She is also an NSF GRFP recipient.

Max Rome

A PhD candidate working under Dr. Ed Beighley. He is interested in understanding eutrophication and translating ecological research into tools that can be used by environmental engineers for better managing aquatic pollution. Max is working to design and permit a prototype floating wetland that will be installed on the Charles River in the spring of 2020. He hopes that data collected from this project can be used to evaluate existing regulatory models and to understand the role that restored habitat can have in controlling toxic algal blooms. Max grew up in Cambridge and enjoys cycling, cooking, and gardening.

Benjamin Gincley

A 2019 graduate of Northeastern’s Bioengineering program, Benjamin Gincley was among the team that won the inaugural BioE “Capstone Cup” for their work on a project to develop a low-cost device for real-time microbial monitoring. Ben’s leadership in student life was felt across campus offices and centers, earning him an invitation to the Huntington 100. He continues to be active in campus spiritual life, involved in interfaith work and leading the mindfulness meditation program. Despite developing a passion for neuroscience research working in labs at Northeastern, Duke University Medical Center, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Ben could not shake the conviction that sustainable management of water resources is one of the most essential challenges of this century.

As a Double Husky, Ben works with Professor Ameet Pinto in the Environmental Ecosystems Laboratory. Their goal is to disrupt conventional methods of monitoring microbes in water systems by pushing the limits of what a microscope can do on a tight budget.

Alanna Sparagna

Alanna Sparagna attended Smith College in Northampton, MA, graduating in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry and French. While attending Smith, she served as a Student Researcher in Aqueous Geochemistry and Environmental Analytical Chemistry, as a Student Liaison for the French Department, and as a Representative of the Social Justice and Equity Committee. Upon graduation, she worked as a Chemist for Nalas Engineering Services Inc., and later as a Pretreatment Manager and Lab Technician for the town of Wareham’s Water Pollution Control Facility. She is a member of Sigma Xi, a science research honors society.

At Northeastern, Alanna works with her advisor, Assistant Professor Loretta Fernandez, in the Environmental Organic Chemistry Laboratory. They study the ways in which man-made chemical contaminants accumulate and move through the environment.

Michael Knapp

Graduating in 2018, Michael Knapp double majored in Environmental Engineering and Political Science at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. While completing his undergraduate degree, he worked as a Student Assistant to the Design Group for the New York Department of Transportation, where he assisted with wetland delineations and redesigned aspects of existing sidewalks to meet regulatory standards. He interned for the Mohawk Valley Water Authority in Potsdam, NY and served as a tutor to fellow students at his university. Michael completed his Eagle Scout Service Project in 2014.

At Northeastern, Michael studies environmental engineering and environmental health under the direction of his PhD advisors, Assistant Professor Loretta Fernandez and Associate Professor Philip Larese-Casanova.

2017 Cohort

Katherine Vilardi

A Rhode Island native, Katherine Vilardi graduated from the Wentworth Institute of Technology with a Civil Engineering degree in 2017. While at Wentworth, she was a member of the Women’s Institute of Leadership Development and the Wentworth Leadership Institute, as well as the philanthropy committee head for the Phi Sigma Pi Honors Fraternity. She worked extensively in undergraduate research at Wentworth, and held positions at the Harvard School of Public Health and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. She was an honorable mention for the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship.

Currently, Katherine works with Dr. Ameet Pinto’s lab, focusing on environmental microbiology. She is a member of Graduate Women in Science and Engineering, as well as Students of Environmental and Water Resources Engineering, Research, and Sustainability.

Cassandra Nickles

Hailing from Los Angeles, CA, Cassandra Nickles graduated Loyola Marymount University with a Civil Engineering degree and a minor in Applied Mathematics in 2017. While at Loyola, she served as President of the American Society of Civil Engineers, was a member of the Marians Service Organization, and was an active undergraduate researcher in their labs. She was awarded the College Scholar Award for the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering, as well as the Seaver College of Science and Engineering 2017 Jerome K. Doolan Award, a 2017 Presidential Citation, and the Slattery-Burns Engineering Full Scholarship Recipient

Currently, Cassandra works with Dr. Ed Beighley on a project supported by NASA’s SWOT program. They plan to launch a satellite in 2021 that will analyze the Earth’s surface water, enabling hydrologic discovery, model advancements and new applications currently not possible or conceivable. She is an active volunteer at the local Boys and Girls Club, and this is her first year in the PhD program at Northeastern University.

John J. Cochrane

John Cochrane

Dr. Cochrane graduated from Northeastern University in 1960 with a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering. He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and returned to join the College of Engineering faculty in 1965, and remained a professor at the College for 30 years. He served as chair of the department from 1977 to 1980 and retired as Professor Emeritus in 2000. As a licensed professional engineer, he consulted on a number of environmental engineering projects in the Northeast. Throughout his career, Dr. Cochrane was active in professional societies including the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, the New England Water Environment Association, and the New England Waterworks Association. Those in our community who worked with Dr. Cochrane during his tenure at Northeastern will remember him to be an avid skier and sailboat racer, two activities that he continues to be involved with today.