Human-Environmental Systems Research

Mission Statement

Meeting the growing demand for water, energy, and food in the face of rapidly changing environmental conditions and socio-economic challenges is one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century. Our research group is dedicated to filling crucial knowledge gaps in the complex and interconnected fields of water, energy, food, and climate, and supporting sustainable resource planning through the development of decision-making tools and the integration of science and policy.

Group Leader

Dr. Lu Liu is an Assistant Professor in the Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering Department. She received her Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of Maryland in 2017. Her primary research interests include water-energy-climate nexus, integrated human-natural system modeling, and urban water sustainability. Dr. Liu is dedicated to exploring how human societies can adapt to the challenges of global environmental change.

Much of her work focused on developing integrated modeling of the interconnected water-energy-climate systems as an approach to understand the interactions and tradeoffs within systems and facilitate strategic planning of the water and energy systems. Prior to her PhD, she worked as a researcher at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where she enhanced water system representation within the state-of-the-art integrated assessment model. Lu’s research integrates method from water resources engineering, systems analysis, climate science, and integrated assessment to inform decision-making around critical environmental challenges. 

Education background

Postdoctoral, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rice University

Ph.D., Civil Engineering, University of Maryland

M.S., Environmental Science, University of Oklahoma

B.S., Environmental Science, University of Oklahoma

Biosketch (updated 05/2023)

Group Members


M.S. Student – Julianna Cox (Fall 2023 – Present)

I received my bachelor of science in Chemistry and bachelor of science in Biology from Mississippi Valley State University. My primary research interests are water quality issues and droughts. With numerous water crises happening all over the world, I aim to use my educational background as a foundation for successfully helping the affected communities. My favorite pastimes include painting, collecting crystals, and spending time with my friends and family.

M.S. Student – Connor Johnson (Fall 2023 – Present)

I am an Iowa native, born and raised in West Des Moines. I have grown up in close proximity to various water resource challenges, ranging from large flooding events to increasing nutrient concentrations in the state’s waterways. These events were my entryway into learning about other water resource issues happening around the rest of the U.S. and the world. This interest in water resources led me to pursue a BSE in Environmental Engineering followed by an MS in Sustainable Development, both from the University of Iowa. These experiences have given me the ability to better understand the complexities of water resource management and the interdisciplinary solutions that will be needed to address the challenges of the future. My primary research interests include Urban Stormwater Management, the Fate/Transport of pollutants in water, and improving equity of water resource solutions. My extracurricular passions include dancing, watching and refereeing soccer matches, and playing a variety of games – both tabletop and electronic.

Ph.D. student – Fatemeh Ganji (Spring 2022 – present)

My interest areas are climate change and its effects, as well as the Water-energy-food nexus. I worked on investigating climate change’s impact on surface water resources. We always have taken water for granted, but now, with the global warming and climate change effects starting to resurface, the accessibility problems are demonstrating in different parts of the world. So, as my master’s thesis, I developed a System Dynamics model to assess the effects of climate change on the quality and quantity of surface water. I received my BSc and my MSc in Civil Engineering from Tehran University, Iran. In my free time, I enjoy traveling, watercolor painting, and watching movies.

Ph.D. student – Emmanuel Padmore Mantey (Fall 2022 – present)

As the world is changing, I believe researchers have to investigate the patterns of these changes and how it affects the environment, specifically water resources. I am from Ghana, where I received my BSc in Civil Engineering from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology(KNUST), Ghana, West Africa, specializing in water resources and environmental engineering. My research interests cover urban water sustainability and the water-energy nexus. I designed an excel based model for a water distribution system for an 800-bed teaching hospital in a peri-urban community. Coming from a developing country, I have experienced firsthand the importance of water sustainability and how climate change affects water resources, influencing my passion for becoming an astute researcher in the field. I am a member of Engineers Without Borders KNUST & USA- Iowa State University. I love cooking, watching tv series, and meeting new people.

Ph.D. Student – Revanth Mamidala (Spring 2023 – Present)

We often take water for granted, failing to recognize its importance as a precious resource and the driving force of nature. It’s important to remember that the water cycle and the life cycle are interconnected. I intend to focus my research on the impacts of climate change and anthropogenic activity on water resources, as well as using cutting-edge technologies to evaluate water pollution and extract nutrients from wastewater to improve water quality. I received my bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and my master’s degree with a specialization in water resources engineering from Osmania University in India. My professional experience includes serving as a research scientist in the water resources group at the National Remote Sensing Centre (part of the Indian Space Research Organization) and completing a research project in collaboration with the Central Water Commission under the Ministry of Jal shakti, Government of India.

Ph.D. Student – Muntaha Ateeq (Fall 2023 – Present)

I am from Pakistan and did my Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering, whereas my Masters is in Water Resources Engineering from NED-University of Engineering and Technology. My main expertise involves hydrology, hydraulic structure designing, and Flood Inundation Modelling. I believe climate change is one of the most pressing issues around the globe. Extreme rainfall events, heat waves, drought, and unpredictable variations in weather patterns result in the depletion of water resources and make our communities more vulnerable. As a passionate researcher and climate activist, it is my core responsibility to contribute towards eradicating the impact of climate change by implementing sustainable infrastructure and mitigation strategies to make this world a better place to live for future generations. I have five years of profound experience as a Hydrologist and Hydraulic Engineer with some of the top design consultants in Pakistan. In my leisure time, I love to explore new tools and go for outdoor activities with my friends and family.

Former Group Members

Master student

Jarrett Morrison (Graduated in Fall 2023)

Undergraduate researcher

Tuong-Vy Phan (Fall 2023 – Spring 2024)

Shanna Fellows (Graduated in Spring 2024)

Andrew King (Graduated in Spring 2024)

Keegan Kullberg (Graduated in Spring 2024)

Yelena Varley (Graduated in Fall 2022)

Elizabeth Mullican (Graduated in Spring 2023) 

Matthew Decker (Graduated in Spring 2023)