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Graduate Students


Leah Anne Dundon

Leah Dundon is a practicing attorney with the law firm of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., one of the nation’s premier environmental law firms. Her practice has focused on civil litigation in both state and federal courts and on advising clients on regulatory matters arising under environmental laws. She has also served as the chair of the Committee on Innovations, Management Systems and Trading, a committee of the American Bar Association’s Section of the Environment, Energy and Resources. Leah is currently working on her Ph.D. through the Center for Environmental Management Studies at Vanderbilt University and is part of a research group that focuses on enterprise risk management, assessing the impacts of extreme weather on infrastructure adaptation, and the strategic and operational deployment of intelligent transportation systems.

Leah received her law degree from Vanderbilt University in 1997 and her B.A. from American University in 1993.

Use the link below to learn more about Leah and some of her research with VECTOR.

Dundon_ Hydraulic Fracturin

Kate Nelson

Kate Nelson is a doctoral student in Environmental Engineering, Management and Policy at Vanderbilt University, an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program that integrates social and technical systems to address environmental challenges. She received a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Oklahoma and an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis where she served as Lab Manager of the Nano Research Facility, a member of the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network, for two years.

Kate’s research interests are in coupled human and natural systems and include: environmental justice, spatial relationships between social vulnerability and physical exposure to hazards, and adaptive management strategies related to climate change and natural hazards. She is currently focused on development of high spatial resolution social vulnerability indices and modeling of climate change effects on barge transportation along the Mississippi River.

Please use the link below to visit Kate Nelson’s personal website.

Leslie Gillespie-Marthaler

Leslie is originally from St. Louis, Missouri.  She graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1994 with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering and served for five years as an active duty Army officer in the Adjutant General’s Corps.  She received a M.S. in Civil Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2002, and a Professional Degree in Engineering Management from George Washington University in 2011.

From 2006-2011, she served as a senior civilian employee with the United States Army.  As a member of the Headquarters Army Staff, Leslie managed the Army’s Environmental Quality Technology program, developed and deployed the Installation Status Report for Natural Infrastructure (ISR-NI), developed and implemented the Environmental Cost Model (ECS), and served as the budget manager for the Army’s environmental programs.  As a member of the staff for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations and Environment, Leslie provided policy oversight for the Army’s environmental programs (compliance, conservation, pollution prevention, natural resources, cultural resources, and NEPA) and led the Army’s development of the Campaign Plan for Sustainability.  During this time, Leslie also served a detail as a senior program manager for the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Office, Office of the Federal Environmental Executive.  In that capacity, she led the Federal Government’s effort to develop Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction targets, publish Federal Guidance for GHG Accounting and Reporting, and led the Federal effort to develop and publish sustainability plans for 57 agencies.

From 2011-2012, Leslie served as a Senior Advisor to the EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Research and Development.  In that role, she developed multi-agency collaborations to demonstrate technologies in support of Net Zero energy, water, and waste strategies.  In addition, she provided oversight for EPA sustainability research and technology initiatives.  During this time, Leslie also served a detail as a senior analyst for the White House Office of Management and Budget.  In that capacity, Leslie provided oversight for the Department of Energy’s Fossil Energy Research Program, and Department of Energy participation in the White House Office of Science, Technology, and Policy Hydraulic Fracturing Research Strategy.

Leslie is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering at Vanderbilt University.  Her research is focused on system-wide sustainability and resilience of communities.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is a doctoral student in Environmental Engineering, Management, and Policy at Vanderbilt University, an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program that integrates social and technical systems to address environmental challenges. Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, Paul was a business manager for the Decision Sciences team at Capital One Financial. He received his M.S. in Engineering Management from Duke University and graduated summa cum laude from Georgia Tech with a B.S. in Industrial and Systems Engineering.

Paul’s research interests include climate change impacts on transportation networks, trends in U.S. agricultural yields, spatiotemporal relationships of extreme weather events, and risk management strategies for natural and manmade disasters. He is also an avid tennis player and heavily involved with the club team at Vanderbilt.

Andrea Gardiner

Andrea Resch Gardiner, PE, is a doctoral student in Environmental Engineering at Vanderbilt University.  She received a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from California Poly Technic State University, San Luis Obispo and a M.S. in Environmental Science and Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines.  Before coming to Vanderbilt, Andrea worked in California, Colorado, and Tennessee for a variety of engineering consulting firms such as URS, TRC, ERM, and Tetra Tech.  She holds her Professional Civil Engineering License in CA, TN, AL, and GA.  Additionally, Andrea operated her own environmental consulting firm.  She currently works as an Environmental Consultant for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Division of Solid Waste.

Andrea’s research interests include life cycle assessment (LCA) as related to waste management and freight operations and their role in decision making methodologies.  She is developing ways to assess the impact of systems on the environment to allow for better resource management, sustainability and resilience.

Jinzhu Yu

Jinzhu Yu is a doctoral student working with Dr. Hiba Baroud in the Department of Civil Engineering at Vanderbilt University. He received his BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering from Tongji University, China in 2013 and 2016, respectively.

Jinzhu’s research interest lies in analyzing risk and resilience of critical infrastructures and he is currently working on hierarchical Bayesian kernel (HBK) techniques to assess the recoverability of infrastructure networks

Eric Burke

Eric Burke is a Master of Engineering student in Environmental Engineering, Management, and Policy at Vanderbilt University. Eric graduated from The George Washington University with a B.S. in Civil Engineering in May 2015 and spent the following year working as a project engineer for Grunley Construction in Washington, D.C. During his time with Grunley he managed LEED Certification and asbestos abatement on the $300 million IMF HQ1 Renewal Project.

Eric’s research interests include environmental policy challenges and their relationship to engineering, supply chain and port resiliency, and the future of renewable energy and sustainable transportation systems. Eric enjoys playing music, travelling, and surfing.”

Mackenzie Whitman

Mackenzie Whitman is a doctoral student in Civil Engineering at Vanderbilt University. Before coming to Vanderbilt, Mackenzie researched risk analysis of multi-commodity networks during her M.S. at the University of Oklahoma and graduate summa cum laude with a B.S. in Industrial and Systems Engineering. Throughout her academic career, Mackenzie has had internships with ABF Freight Inc. in Ft. Smith, AR and Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts in Orlando, FL.

Mackenzie’s research interests include measuring resilience of critical infrastructure systems, modeling interdependence between transportation systems and the economy, and decision analysis techniques for risk management strategies.

ValaRae Partee

ValaRae Partee is a doctoral student in Environmental Engineering at Vanderbilt University. She earned her B.S and M.S in Environmental Engineering from the University of Georgia and Vanderbilt University, respectively. ValaRae has a broad and extensive list of research experiences ranging from characterizing airborne bacteria and air quality, remediation of heavy metal radionuclides from water, and lead corrosion chemistry in drinking water. Her current passion focuses on the science and socio-political intersect of environmental justice issues and climate change vulnerabilities. In addition, ValaRae was selected as a 2017-2018 Curb Center Public Scholar to develop an application-based water quality network for food safety management.

ValaRae is an active student leader at Vanderbilt University. She serves on the Graduate Student Council (2016-2018), the Organization of Black Graduate and Professional Students (2017-2018), the Civil and Environmental Engineering Council (2017-2018), she co-founded the Vanderbilt Chapter of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists (2016-2018), and she has been appointed to serve on the Graduate Education Working Group under the Dean of the Graduate School. ValaRae has also been selected to participate in the 2017 Environmental Fellows Program (EFP) through the University of Michigan in partnership with the Environmental Grantmakers Association. This summer she will be working at Earthjustice, a non-profit Environmental Law firm, located in New York City.

Andrew Stanford

Andrew Stanford is a doctoral student in Civil Engineering at Vanderbilt University.  He received his B.S. in Civil Engineering from the Virginia Military Institute in May 2016.  Andrew’s research interests include Infrastructure Risk and Resilience, Multi-Modal Transportation Integration and Optimization and Transportation Policy research. Prior to Vanderbilt, Andrew conducted research on Dynamic Shear Key Deflection Responses, Ultra-Short Pulse Laser Telecommunications and the Insulin-Glucose Feedback System of Diabetics.

Prior to Vanderbilt, Andrew worked for the Virginia Department of Transportation as a Maintenance and Land Use Engineer in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  He was primarily focused on bringing new developments into the State network, maintaining current infrastructure and working with various stakeholders to facilitate project deliverables.  Andrew is currently part of the Kentucky National Guard serving as a Platoon Leader with the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.