Professor of Environmental Science, Columbia University

When I was about eight-years-old, I did not speak to my parents for a whole day because they threw a banana peel out of our car, which I found was unacceptable from an environmental point of view. I knew early on that I wanted to dedicate my career to environmental issues and studied Physics, because there was no such thing as Environmental Science back then. My PhD thesis research topic at the University of Heidelberg focussed on novel tracer techniques to study the dynamics of ground water flow, and the use of ground water as an archive of paleoclimate. I have been interested in water issues ever since and can still hardly resist to take a plunge into a thermal spring I encounter or take a sip from a well that might tap an interesting aquifer. I believe that water will play an increasingly important role in our attempts to achieve a sustainable global development. I am also trying hard to be a decent teacher and undergraduate and graduate student adviser, because I think that is where faculty members have the most influence on the future of our planet.

Some of my projects include:

Health Effects and Geochemistry of Arsenic and Lead
San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD/EarthScope)
Carbon Sequestration
Natural Gas Production by Hydraulic Fracturing


  • –present
    Professor of Geochemistry, Columbia University