staff spotlights


ISTC staff members are engaged in diverse areas of sustainability research, technical assistance, and outreach. Some of these professionals are featured in our spotlights.

Shantanu Pai

Shantanu Pai
Assistant Sustainability Researcher

Shantanu Pai is an assistant sustainability researcher at ISTC working in the Zero Waste Illinois program, which assists in waste diversion and pollution prevention benefits for Illinois business, industry, and government. He joined ISTC in 2013.

Shantanu graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point in 2013 with a B.S. in Waste and Soils Resources. During his studies, he served as a research assistant at the Center for Land Use and Planning and at the Center for Waste Education. He also worked with Marathon County, WI, on framing their zero waste plan.

His research interests include fate and transport of waste materials through market driven initiatives; the role of affluence and directed public policy in solid waste management; and solid waste industry in the developing world. His passion for these topics is captured in a 2014 Prairie Research Institute lightning talk.

Shantanu counts the Solid Waste Characterization and Zero Waste Assistance program at the Forest Preserve of Cook County as his greatest ISTC accomplishment to date. The program, currently in its implementation phase, is investigating waste generation at picnic sites; helping to develop permitting practices related to waste disposal and picnic supplies purchasing; conducting employee training and public outreach focused on waste reduction and recycling; and conducting pilot studies on zero waste facilities. He is also proud of and dedicated to the many ISTC projects that have helped manufacturing facilities across Illinois reduce waste. Read more about his recent successes on the Zero Waste website.

Wei Zheng

Wei Zheng
Senior Research Chemist

Wei Zheng is a senior research chemist in ISTC’s Applied Research on Industrial Environmental Systems Program. Wei investigates emerging contaminants and pathogens associated with wastewater treatment and reuse, particularly pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs). Another major research interest is bioenergy, especially the production and applications of biochar. He joined ISTC in 2008.

Wei has published over 70 scientific articles, and has been invited to speak at over 50 national and international conferences. Since 2009, he has won almost a million dollars in grant funds to pursue his research.

Wei earned a Ph.D. in environmental chemistry from China’s Zhejiang University. Prior to joining ISTC, he worked as a research scientist at the USDA-ARS Salinity Laboratory at the University of California, Riverside. He is also an adjunct assistant professor with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science (NRES) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Environmental Monitoring and Analysis, and on a number of grant review panels.

John Scott

John Scott
Senior Analytical Chemist

John Scott is a senior analytical chemist in ISTC’s Applied Research on Industrial Environmental Systems Program. John investigates emerging contaminants in environmental media, production of biofuels and bioproducts from non-edible sources, and utilization of waste biomass. He joined ISTC in 2001.

John has pioneered the use of fluorescence spectroscopy as a technique to quickly identify contaminants in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) fluids. He has also looked at the fate and transport of pharmaceuticals and hormones during thermochemical conversion of swine manure, and developed test methods to support hazardous algae bloom programs. John has co-authored nearly 20 scientific articles and reports, and has presented his research at numerous national conferences and regional symposia. He has 15 years of experience preparing and analyzing samples for inorganic and organic analysis, including analysis of legacy pollutants, such as PCBs, pesticides, and flame retardants in environmental media and biota.

Prior to joining ISTC, John worked as a Quality Control Technician at Abbott Laboratories in Chicago. He holds dual B.S. degrees in chemistry and environmental health from Illinois State University.

Elizabeth Meschewski

Elizabeth Meschewski
Research Specialist

Elizabeth (Beth) Meschewski joined ISTC in April 2011 as a research assistant in the lab and is now a research specialist conducting public engagement and outreach. Beth communicates ISTC’s research and technical assistance activities by creating displays, posters, and website content. She is also the assistant coordinator for the ISTC Sponsored Research Program which is funded by the Illinois Hazardous Waste Research Fund (HWRF) and assists with oversight of projects funded through HWRF and with a myriad of outreach events related to research at ISTC.

Beth’s research interests include the fate and transport of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in the environment and she is currently working on efforts to increase both the public’s and health care professionals’ awareness of these issues as well as safe disposal of unwanted medicines.

Beth earned her master’s degree in environmental engineering and her bachelor’s degree in geology, both at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Troy Walker

Troy Walker
Technical Assistance Engineer

Troy Walker is a technical assistance engineer at ISTC since October 2014 and is responsible for providing Sustainability, Pollution Prevention and Energy Efficiency assistance to organizations and businesses of Illinois.

Prior to joining ISTC, Troy was Senior Buyer and Production Planner for Sony Biotechnology, Inc. located in the University of Illinois' Research Park. He has held numerous positions in the automotive and heavy equipment industries including manufacturing engineering, operations and supply chain. Troy received a Bachelor's degree in Industrial Technology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, a Master of Science degree in Industrial Technology from Illinois State University in Normal, and an MBA from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Mike Springman

Mike Springman
Environmental Engineer

Mike Springman is an environmental engineer in ISTC’s Emerging Technologies and Assistance Program. Springman manages the Godfrey Office, where he is responsible for providing sustainability, pollution prevention, and energy efficiency assistance to the Southern Illinois area. He joined ISTC in 1997.

Since then, Mike has focused on improving industry’s use of natural resources and energy, particularly in the areas of membrane technologies, solvent substitution, alternative cleaning technologies, and process efficiency. Mike has also worked extensively with the Illinois National Guard on environmental projects ranging from Environmental Management Systems (EMS) to undergrounds storage tank closures.

Mike is currently the lead investigator on the Northern Illinois Economy, Energy and Environment (E3) technical assistance project and project manager on the Illinois Conservation of Resources, Economy, Energy and Environment (ICORE3) project.

Susan Barta

Susan Barta
Analytical Chemist

Susan Barta is an analytical chemist who has worked at ISTC since 2012. Her research interests involve developing, improving, and expanding the analysis capabilities of the ISTC. Susan is currently evaluating and developing testing protocols to measure a wide range of algal toxins.

Since joining ISTC, Susan has worked on a variety of projects including compositional analysis of biomass, evaluation of nanomaterials for oil spill treatment, and characterization of produced waters from oil extraction. Susan’s laboratory skills have been used to support most of the ongoing research here at ISTC including efforts in desalination, waste to energy, emerging contaminants, and water treatment. She has extensive experience in sample preparations by microwave digestion and accelerated solvent extraction. In addition to standard wet chemical techniques, she is also well versed in instrumentation including ion chromatography, atomic absorption spectroscopy, inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry, UV-Vis spectroscopy, gas chromatography, and high performance liquid chromatography.

Prior to joining the ISTC Susan worked in research laboratories at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Penn State University, and the USDA Northeast Watershed Research Center in State College, PA. She has also worked as an environmental chemist at the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene and at a consulting firm.

Susan earned a bachelor’s degree in oceanography at the University of Washington-Seattle, and a master’s degree in water resources management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Laura Barnes

Laura Barnes
Sustainability Information Curator and
Executive Director of GLRPPR

Laura Barnes serves as ISTC’s Sustainability Information Curator and as Executive Director of the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR). In her role as Sustainability Information Curator, Laura develops new information resources (RefWorks, LibGuides, databases, etc.); responds to scientific or technical inquiries from ISTC researchers and the public; conducts orientations to University Library resources; and identifies funding opportunities and publications of interest to ISTC researchers. She also authors the Environmental News Bits blog; writes for the Prairie Research Institute Library’s News from the Library blog; and maintains the Sustainable Technology page on the Institute’s Library website.

In her role as GLRPPR’s Executive Director, Laura develops and directs regional programs to benefit the organization’s members. She collaborates with the staff of the other centers in the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange’s national network to develop national pollution prevention information and networking tools, which include the Pollution Prevention 101 LibGuide and the Social Media Best Practices LibGuide.

Laura develops and teaches workshops and webinars that provide participants with strategies to locate relevant sustainability information and green their organizations. She also serves on multiple committees to accomplish similar goals. She is interested in encouraging sustainable behaviors through social media channels; teaching public librarians to become community sustainability leaders; and applying new tools for managing and curating web content. Her publications are available on IDEALS, the University of Illinois’ institutional repository.

Barnes joined ISTC as a graduate student in 1991. She earned a B.A. in American History (1989) and an M.S. in Library and Information Science (1993) from the University of Illinois.

Sri Chandrasekaran

Sriraam Ramanathan Chandrasekaran
Lead Research Engineer

Sriraam Chandrasekaran is a lead research engineer at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) and has been with ISTC since in May 2013. His researcher interests include alternative energy; reduction of wastes; and air emissions. He is currently studying the feasibility of utilizing biomass based heating in various sectors in Illinois. He is also working on developing proof of concept and process for CO2 utilization.

Sri graduated from the Clarkson University (Potsdam, NY) in 2012 with a Ph.D. in environmental science and engineering. He earned his master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering also from Clarkson University and his bachelors of technology degree in chemical engineering from Anna University (India).

Nancy Holm

Nancy Holm
Assistant Director

Nancy Holm is the assistant director for sponsored research, public engagement, and communications (SRPEC). She oversees the ISTC Sponsored Research Program, which funds research projects through the State of Illinois’ Hazardous Waste Research Fund, and she manages the publication of final reports from those projects. Nancy also is in charge of Public Engagement activities for ISTC, such as planning the ISTC Sustainability Seminar series, coordinating outreach at sustainability fairs or events, and organizing conferences and workshops. She also oversees ISTC communications - news releases, reports, website development and content - as well as the IT department. Nancy joined ISTC in 2006.

Nancy’s research interests include environmental research on aquatic nutrient cycling, effects on biota from the degradation of aquatic habitats, pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in the environment, and plastics pollution. She is also involved in several research projects related to biochar and is interested in its use as a soil amendment, for contaminant remediation, and for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Nancy has authored over 30 scientific reports and articles and has presented numerous talks at regional symposia and national conferences. She holds an M.S. in oceanography and limnology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a B.A. in biology and chemistry from Luther College.

Dan Marsch

Dan Marsch
Environmental Engineer

Dan Marsch is an Environmental Engineer in ISTC’s Peoria office, located at Illinois Central College. He provides on-site sustainability technical assistance to businesses and communities in Central and Western Illinois focusing on pollution prevention, resource conservation, and waste minimization. Dan works closely with companies as a "change agent." That is, he helps companies improve their triple bottom line (people-planet-profit) by improving social responsibility, reducing environmental impact, and saving money. He has been with the Center since 2002.

Dan has collaborated on a number of ISTC research projects, including work on alternative green cleaners, efficiency performance contracting, membrane separation, metalworking fluids, and biomass-to-energy.

Currently, Dan is the lead for the Illinois Conservation of Resources Economy, Energy and Environment (ICORE3) Technical Assistance Program, funded by USEPA. ICORE3 strives to achieve measurable energy and water conservation improvements among Illinois’ underserved rural communities and businesses, focusing primarily on the manufacturing sector. ICORE3 was the recipient of the 2013 National Pollution Prevention Roundtable MVP2 Award.

When he joined ISTC, Dan brought 20 years of work experience within the private sector. He graduated from Evangel University with a B.A. in Business Management, with continued studies in business and environmental science.

Rupa Ganguly

Rupa Ganguly
Process Development Engineer

Rupa Ganguly is a process development engineer who joined ISTC in May 2012. As an environmental engineer she broadly delves into wastewater treatment and its beneficial reuse. Her research interests include:

  • Performance benchmarking of wastewater treatment plants
  • Environmental sustainability and economic feasibility of emerging water treatment technologies
  • Reuse of low-value biosolids
  • Recirculating and intensive aquaculture systems
  • Remediation of saline wastewater and groundwater

Prior to joining ISTC, Rupa was a scientific engineering associate in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where she quantified energy efficient strategies for data centers in terms of energy savings and life cycle cost analysis, benchmarking and best practices, and their impact on indoor air quality through aerosol measurements.

Rupa holds an M.S. in environmental engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, an M.S. in engineering from Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, VA) and a B.E. in electrical and electronics engineering from R.V. College of Engineering (Bangalore, India).

Vinod Patel

Vinod Patel
Manufacturing Engineer

Vinod Patel has been with ISTC since 2008 as a manufacturing engineer providing technical assistance to businesses and manufacturers in the Chicago area. His specialties are in process efficiency, green chemistry, energy efficiency, water conservation, coal combustion generated byproducts and air pollutants study, techno-economic analysis, and life cycle assessments. He is currently working on the DOE/NETL funded Large Pilot Scale CO2 Capture Project.

Vinod has more than 40 years of experience in process and project engineering, research and development, and operations management. He jointly holds US Patent No. 8852436. He earned his Bachelor of Engineering in chemical engineering from Gujarat University (India).