People

July 2022 Group. Missing: Noah Bell, Neha Chatterjee, Rachel Daughtridge, Dr. Michele Duarte de Menezes‎, Michael Douglass, Jessica Hendrickson, Marcelo H. Procópio Pelegrino, Rosa Ibarra López, Kato Ssentamu, Javier Taracena, Pei-Chen Lee, Sebastian Mora Monge

Dr. Andrew Margenot  Principle Investigator (PI)
Assistant Professor, Department of Crop Sciences, UIUC
Senior Associate Editor, Geoderma
Associate Editor, Soil Science Society of America Journal
Founding Member, Agroecosystem Sustainability Center, UIUC
Affiliate Faculty, Program in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology, UIUC
Affiliate Faculty, Center for Digital Agriculture, UIUC
Affiliate Faculty, Center for African Studies, UIUC
Technical Leader (soil enzymes) & Earth Team Volunteer, USDA NRCS Kellogg Soil Survey Laboratory


Dr. Jasdeep Singh Research scientist
I am a broadly trained soil scientist with an interest in applying fundamental knowledge about soil processes to assess the effects of agricultural management practices on nutrient cycling, soil water storage, and ecosystem services. I use mixed-method approach to data collection and analysis with extensive experience in field and lab experiments and predictive simulation modelling.

Dr. Nan Li Post-doc
My research focuses on using the proximal and remote soil sensing technology to improve the understanding of soil variation at spatial and temporal scales. I am also working to develop multi-input machine learning models to quantify, predict and manage spatiotemporal soil nutrient (e.g. N and P) fluxes and response to best- management fertilization.

Dr. Shengnan Zhou Post-doc
My research interests include soil erosion and degradation in intensively managed landscapes, particularly focusing on C and P dynamics. I am currently working to determine Illinois soil legacy P using archived historical soil samples to evaluate agricultural management effects on P losses and investments in P loss reduction strategies.

Dr. Jeonggu Lee Post-doc
I have focused on developing new agricultural methods to improve crop productivity in both quality and quantity. The main novelty of my research work is to maximize crop production while minimizing environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions (CH4 & N2O) and nutrient losses (N & P). I am currently interested in a new graphene-based proximal soil sensor for detecting nitrate and phosphate fluxes.

Dr. Suwei Xu Post-doc
My current research focuses on the phosphorus biogeochemical cycle in the environment, especially on the distribution and speciation of P in the soil environment with different agricultural management or land use. My major interest is in how different soil forming factors (i.e., climate, parent material, vegetation, etc.) or activities (i.e., deforestation, invasive species) affect the Pi and Po speciation and movement and what are the possible environment responses.

Dr. Sajjad Raza Post-doc (with Dr. Supratik Guha at University of Chicago)
My research focuses on the biogeochemistry of nitrogen and carbon in agroecosystems. I have studied the effects of enhanced efficiency fertilizers to control nitrogen losses and greenhouse gases emissions from wheat, maize, and cotton crops. I have also worked on nitrogen-induced soil acidification and its effects on inorganic carbon losses from agricultural soils. In this position I will be working on integrating biogeochemistry, sensors, and machine learning to resolve and predict soil processes.


Michael Douglass Head field technician
I thoroughly enjoy working as a research tech in the field environment and trying to tame down the variables which accompany it. I’ve been fortunate to work with exceptional people along the way and gain experience in a range of settings: from agroforestry, fruit & vegetable production, cover crops, corn/soy farming, and weed management.

Taylor Berkshire-Akers Lab manager & Head lab technician
As part of my duties as lab manager and head lab technician, I oversee the operations of the wet labs and coordinate multiple research projects with field and lab components. I focus on cover crops (seeding rates, different ways of seeding, and grazing) and their role in nutrient cycling, specifically nitrogen. Research aside, I enjoy spending time with my family, listening to podcasts, renovating my house, and spending time outside (when it’s warm).

Rachel Daughtridge  Research Technician
Rachel is a recent B.S. graduate from Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences. She is currently working to improve the methodology of soil enzyme assays, and plans to attend graduate school to study terrestrial ecology.”

Kato Ssentamu  Research technician
Kato earned a Bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness in 2015. He joins the soils lab from the Sustainable Systems lab, for which he has spent nearly a decade working as lab assistant. Kato grew up outside of Kampala, Uganda, and continues to manage a family farm in Africa growing corn, sugarcane, coffee, and plantains. Kato works part-time as a Field Technician for IntelinAir, a local startup company that develops agricultural analytics based on Aerial imagery. Kato is interested in growing his business and helping ensure global food security. Hobbies include barbeques, bonfires, and watching soccer.

Maia Rothman Research Technician
Maia completed a Bachelor’s in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in 2021, where they conducted research on the role of seasonal flooding on N availability and microbial C:N:P stoichiometry. Broadly interested in the ways that human activity has altered soil processes and nutrient cycling, they are now working to quantify legacy P in Illinois, including the historic Morrow Plots, using a statewide soil collection that dates back to the end of the 19th century.  

Javier Enrique Taracena Aldana Research technician
I am interested in learning about laboratory analytic processes, soil management and health so that Iater on I can apply my knowledge in Guatemala, my home country, and help other producers to ensure the well-being of their soils. In my free time I enjoy doing any kind of sports with friends, hangout with my family and close my afternoons with a good cup of coffee.

Sebastian Mora Monge Research technician
Here is my bio: Sebastian is a new arrival, coming to the Soils Lab after finishing his bachelor’s degree in Crop Science at University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. He is interested in learning more about soil profiles, and their chemical properties. Furthermore, he wants to sharpen his lab techniques and perform field work. Sebastian has lived in the Chambana area for 20+ but was brought to the U.S by his parents as a 2-year-old born in Costa Rica. Because of this, he wishes to one day apply his profession in Costa Rica to ensure food security and promote agronomic processes that ensure sustainability in rural or urban areas where Farmers haven’t received a formal education.

Sara Eldessouky Research Technician


Graduate Students

Neha Chatterjee PhD candidate
I am working on evaluation of the agronomic and environmental impact of a waste-recovered slow release Phosphorus fertilizer struvite. Essentially I am looking at cover crops and mycorrhizae as biological mechanisms to improve the P availability. Outside the lab, I enjoy TED Talks, classic literature and contemporary science fiction.

Yuhei Nakayama PhD student
Yuhei seeks to understand soil nutrient dynamics in both natural and agricultural systems through the use of various biogeochemical tools. Current topics of interest include soil enzymes, soil phosphorus dynamics, and volcanic soils.

Rosa Elena Ibarra López PhD student
I am working in quantifying contextual linkages between soil health and crop nitrogen availability in agricultural systems through the assessment of soil mineralogy and nitrogen synchrony analyses. Outside of the lab, I enjoy spending time with my loved ones, watching tv shows and movies, listening to new music, dancing, reading and meeting new places.

Finnleigh Doherty PhD student
My interests include spectroscopy and mechanisms of SOC stabilization with a focus on biomimetic assays of labile C. I am also working on biophysical assessments of sustainability in the multi-state USDA-NIFA Sustainable Agricultural Systems (SAS) project, #DiverseCornBelt. Outside of lab I can be found reading in my hammock or hiking.

Elided Junior Lumor PhD student
Elided’s research theme revolves around soil biogeochemistry, specifically soil C N and P. he Is currently investigating soil N and P contribution to crop uptake through an NSF Smart & Connected Communities (SCC)-funded state-wide on-farm assessment to improve nutrient management.

Patricia Leon MS student
Patricia is from Chicago, Illinois and graduated with a B.Sc in Environmental Science from Northeastern Illinois University in 2020. Patricia’s research interests further expand into understanding the interconnection between urban and agricultural influences on the environment. Hobbies include reading, cycling, and spending time with family and pets.

Bri Gates MS student
With a background in horticulture, Bri works primarily with the physical properties of soil sampled from around the world, specifically using aggregate fractionation techniques. Hobbies include baking, gardening, playing ice hockey, biking, and spending as much time outdoors as possible.

Heidi Allen Asensio   MS student
I graduated with a B.Sc. in Environment and Development Engineering from Escuela Agrícola Panamericana Zamorano, Honduras. My research focuses of developing accurate nutrient management principles to optimize coffee yield and quality for smallholders in south-central Guatemala, my home country. In my free time, I enjoy outdoor activities, drinking coffee (of course) and spending time with family and friends.

Luke Bergschneider MS student
I graduated from Western Illinois University with my bachelor’s degree in 2022, after studying agricultural science and agronomy. My research focuses on contextualizing soil nutrient loads and calculating balances for fields in Illinois under best management practices. I look forward to applying what I learn to my family’s farm in central Illinois. Outside of the lab I enjoy hunting and fishing, following the St. Louis Cardinals and Blues, reading, and spending time with my family and friends.

Pei-Chen Lee PhD student

Mariana Gómez – incoming PhD student


Visiting Scholars

Dr. Michele Duarte de Menezes‎ Visiting Professor, Universidade Federal de Lavras (Brazil)  
I am an assistant professor at the Soil Science Department, Universidade Federal de Lavras. My work has focused on applied Pedology, digital soil mapping techniques, and soil proximal/remote sensing. Currently, my research has been dedicated to providing solutions for perennial crops (management units, soil suitability analysis, yield predictive models, and terroir analysis), and to developing predictive models for geochemical studies.

Marcelo Henrique Procópio Pelegrino Visiting PhD student, Universidade Federal de Lavras (Brazil)
My interests are in Pedometrics, Proximal sensors and Digital Soil Mapping (DSM). In my PhD, I’m focusing on the DSM of zinc phytoavailability in Brazilian Cerrado soils, and its iteration with other soil properties such as organic matter, phosphorus and pH. Outside the lab, my interests are horror and sci-fi movies, workout and trekking

Sanchez Rolle MPH/PhD student, Tuskegee University
Sanchez is a current graduate student at Tuskegee University where his research is focused on environmental justice for minority communities. As a REU fellow, he is working with standardizing soil enzyme assays for reproducible biological soil health measurement. Sanchez hopes to gain more laboratory experience that would make him comfortable performing experiments.


Undergraduate Students

Max Roman
I am from Chicago. I’ve always had an interest in learning about how we grow and maintain our plant systems. Working in a soils lab has shown me the importance of maintaining healthy soil for not only our food but also improving our quality of life in cities and elsewhere.

Jessica Hendrickson
I am a sophomore studying Crop Sciences-Plant Biotechnology and Molecular Biology. I’m currently working with soils to test how inputs can impact yield and coffee quality. In my free time, I enjoy reading, practicing for the Marching Illini, and drinking coffee!

Noah Bell
I am an undergraduate student majoring in Metropolitan Food and Environmental Systems. My interests are in the scaling of alternative farming methodology and preparing our food system for the future. In my free time, I enjoy all things outdoors, from hiking to whitewater kayaking to biking.

Shawn Arreguin
I am an undergraduate studying integrative biology. My research interests center around urban ecosystems. I hope to use what I learn through the soils lab to help me better understand urban ecosystems. In my free time, I enjoy going to the gym, exploring new foods, and playing video games

Sarah Shoaff
I am an undergraduate studying Crop Sciences with a concentration in Agroecology. My interest is in sustainable agriculture. I love running, yoga, cycling, and spending time outdoors.


Gone but not forgotten…

J Kemner Research technician (2021 – 2022). Now PhD student at UC Riverside

Andrew Malcomson Undergraduate research assistant (2021-2022). Now MS student at UW Madison.

Cindy Lisbeth Guardado Moncada Visiting scholar, Zamorano University (Spring 2022)

Jessie Arabely Navas Soto Visiting scholar, Zamorano University (Fall 2021)

Lukas Wright  Undergraduate research assistant (2018-2021)

Dr. Jordon Wade Post-doc (2019 – 2021). Now Assistant Professor of Soil Health at University of Missouri

Lexi GomezUndergraduate research assistant (summer 2021)

Cole Diaz Undergraduate research assistant (summer 2021)

Dr. Chongyang (Oliver) Li Postdoc (2019-2021)

George Watson MS student (2019-2021)

Jeremy Peterson Undergraduate research assistant (2019 – 2021)

Dr. Chunhao Gu  Post-doc (2018-2020). Now associate professor at Chinese University of Geoscience, Wuhan, China.

Alyssa Nuñez  Undergraduate research assistant (Fall 2018 – Spring 2020)

Ariel Roh  Undergraduate research assistant (Spring 2020)

Kee Joo Nam  Undergraduate research assistant (Fall 2019, Spring 2020)

Liz Miernicki Lab technician (2018 – 2019)

Izzi Di Tomassi NSF REU PRECS Intern (Summer 2019)

Erinn R Dady NSF REU PRECS intern (Summer 2019)

Grace Trankina, Undergrad research assistant (Spring 2018, Fall 2018-Spring 2019)

Linnie Shapiro, Undergrad research assistant (Fall 2018 – Spring 2019)

Naomi Canino, Undergrad research assistant (Fall 2018-Spring 2019)

Helen Senerchia, NSF REU PRECS Intern (Summer 2018)

Erik Stanek, Honorary Lab Member (knows plant stuff) (Summer-Fall 2018)

Nick Kaufmann, Undergrad research assistant (Summer 2018)



February 2022 Group. Missing: Kato Ssentamu, Noah Bell, Dr. Michele Duarte de Menezes‎, Marcelo Henrique Procópio Pelegrino , Dr. Jeonggu Lee
August 2021 Group. Missing: Kato Ssentamu, Shengnan Zhou, Lukas Wright, Andrew Malcomson, Jessica Hendrickson, Max Roman.
February 2021 Group. Missing: Patricia Leon, Kato Ssentamu, Shengnan Zhou, Lukas Wright, Andrew Malcomson, Jessica Hendrickson, Max Roman.
January 2020
Summer 2018
Standing proudly on top of the Illinois state soil, the Drummer series
(Fine-silty, mixed, superactive, mesic Typic Endoaquolls)