Biological & Environmental Engineering
Soil & Water Lab
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Asha Sharma

Email: ans62@cornell.edu
Phone: 607-255-4992
Office: B62 Riley Robb Hall
Advisor: Todd Walter
Degree Program: MS/PhD


Background

I grew up in Kolkata, India and graduated with a Bachelor of Technology in Industrial Biotechnology from Anna University, Chennai. I defended my Master’s thesis in December 2009 and am currently working towards a PhD. In my free time, I volunteer with Asha Cornell (name coincidental), which supports education projects for underprivileged children in India. Someday I hope to play the violin reasonably well.

My Current Research Projects and Interests

DNA Based Tracers

In order to answer questions that involve multiple and potentially interacting hydrological flowpaths, multiple tracers with identical transport properties that can nonetheless be distinguished from each other are required. We are therefore developing such a new kind of engineered tracer system that allows a large number of individual tracers to be simultaneously distinguished from one another. This new tracer is composed of polylactic acid (PLA) microspheres into which short strands of synthetic DNA and paramagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles are incorporated. The synthetic DNA serves as the “label” or “tag” in our tracers that allow us to distinguish one tracer from another and paramagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles are included in the tracer to facilitate magnetic concentration of the tracers in water samples. The potential advantages of this strategy compared to conventional tracers are the elimination of background interferences, the ability to segregate superimposed flowpaths through the design of strictly unique DNA tags and the biodegradability of the tracers.

Climate Change and Groundwater

Little is currently known about the effects of climate change on groundwater. As population increase and economic activity are likely to cause increased use of this resource in many regions, understanding the impacts of climate change on it becomes more critical. The lack of long term groundwater data has been a major impediment in understanding long term trends. We are therefore exploring the possibility of using surface flow data, using in particular recession slope analysis to estimate trends in aquifer thickness, i.e. groundwater depth.