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Research group, spring 2019

Principal Investigator

Dr. Karen C. Dannemiller

I am an Associate Professor at Ohio State University with a joint appointment in Civil, Environmental, and Geodetic Engineering and Environmental Health Sciences. I also have a courtesy appointment in Microbiology and am a core faculty member in the Sustainability Institute. My interdisciplinary research integrates engineering with microbiology and addresses emerging health challenges and environmental concerns using -omics approaches. Within the indoor environment, we are simultaneously exposed to thousands of chemicals and microorganisms which compose our indoor exposome. Broadly, the goal of my work is to understand these exposures, their sources, and their impact on human health while fostering student engagement. My unique background combines training in both engineering and public health to tackle difficult questions, particularly with regards to exposures in the built environment, where we spend 90% of our time.

Prior to my current position, I graduated with honors in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering from Brown University and earned my M.S., M.Phil, and Ph.D. at Yale University in Chemical and Environmental Engineering. During this time, I completed an internship at the California Department of Public Health in the Indoor Air Quality Program. I was also a Microbiology of the Built Environment Postdoctoral Associate at Yale University. My work improved our understanding of human exposures linked to childhood asthma development and severity. My research also elucidated resident microbial populations and fundamental transport processes occurring in homes. My current research is on microbial activity in house dust, indoor exposures, and asthma. 

In addition to a fundamental background in engineering and quantitative sciences, my skill set in microbiology includes phylogenetics, metagenomics, and transcriptomics and allows for exploration of microbial communities and biological processes. I have extensive experience with next-generation DNA sequencing of fungi and bacteria and using this data I have also addressed relevant challenges bioinformatics, including software development, and in statistics, to demonstrate complex associations with human health outcomes.

I teach classes in Risk Assessment, Probability and Statistics for Engineers, and another class titled Engineering Design for Environmental Health.

I was awarded the Denman Distinguished Research Mentor Award in 2017 and the IMR Early Career Innovator of the Year in 2019.  In 2020 I also received a five-year Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation, the Lumley Engineering Research Award, and the Buckeye Engineering Women in Executive Leadership (BEWEL) Leadership in Innovation Award.

Follow me on Twitter.

Current Lab Members

Neeraja Balasubrahmaniam

I am a PhD student in the Environmental Sciences Graduate Program in Dr. Karen Dannemiller’s IEQ lab. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering in 2018 from India and a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering in 2020 from Purdue University.

As a graduate student in Dr. Dannemiller’s lab, my research currently involves working to obtain and analyze gene expression of microbial communities in indoor dust to help characterize microbial human exposure. During my master's, I worked with Dr. Brandon Boor to model particle resuspension and exposure caused by locomotion.


Josh Blankenship

I am a second-year undergraduate student at Ohio State pursuing a B.S. degree in Biological Engineering and a minor in Humanitarian Engineering. I plan on attending graduate school and look forward to working with Dr. Dannemiller and the entire Indoor Environmental Quality team. 




Ashleigh Bope

I am a graduate student pursuing a PhD Degree in the Environmental Science Graduate Program. Previously, I studied at Capital University, where I graduated with honors in Environmental Science and Biology. My research experience has focused on small mammal ecology, exploring the associations between mouse populations and habitat characteristics.

My current work includes studying associations between asthma severity and microbial exposures in adult female bedrooms. Using qPCR and DNA sequencing, the fungal, bacterial and viral communities in bedroom dust will be quantified and identified. Statistical analysis will reveal any associations between exposure and sleep disruption. I am also helping to characterize the differences between dPCR and qPCR and the efficiencies associated with indoor dust collection and analysis methods.


Sam Cochran

I am a graduate of The Ohio State University with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Global Public Health. I am currently getting my masters in Public Health. I work under Dr. Karen Dannemiller, characterizing the accuracy and precision of digital and quantitative PCR utilities, as well as the efficiency in obtaining quantifiable levels of DNA from environmental samples.




Sarah Haines

 I am a graduate student pursuing a PhD in Environmental Science. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering in 2017 and with a Master of Science in Environmental Science in 2019 from The Ohio State University. As an undergraduate, I worked with Dr. Karen Dannemiller looking into microbial growth in carpet dust at varying relative humidity conditions.

As a graduate student I continued this research, increasing the samples size and collecting carpet and dust samples from 20 different homes across Ohio. During the summer of 2019, I was a Visiting Scholar at the University of California Berkeley working on a project relating microbial growth and chemical emissions from building materials in the indoor environment. This research will aid in the completion of my dissertation.


Nicholas Nastasi

I received an Associates of Science as an Honors Scholar Graduate from Columbus State Community College and, in 2018, graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.S and Honors Research Distinction in Environmental Engineering. Currently, I am pursuing a graduate degree at The Ohio State University in the Environmental Science Graduate Program with a specialization in Environmental Public Health. Previous research experience includes geochemical and microbial analyses of hydraulic fracturing fluids. I have also investigated how fungal growth and allergen production in carpet and house dust is affected by relative humidity.

Currently, my research focuses on a collaboration with NASA to model microbial growth and communities from dust collected from the International Space Station. I'm also working on how aerosolized viruses deposited on carpet and dust can persist in these materials.


Jenny Panescu, M.S.

I am the Project Coordinator for the BREATHE-Smart project, assisting Dr. Dannemiller to lead a collaborative team of experts across several disciplines toward developing a method which uses smart phone technology to rapidly detect allergens in the home. I also support IEQ laboratory operations and an exceptional team of students and staff. I hold a B.S. in microbiology and a M.S. in environmental science from Ohio State, and have nearly two decades of research and management experience, also at Ohio State. My areas of expertise are microbiology and molecular biology, which I’ve applied to a diverse research portfolio spanning my early work identifying microsatellite instability and germ-line mutations in DNA mismatch-repair genes in patients with Lynch Syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer), and more recently, isolation, genomic and phenotypic characterization of Marinobacter and Arcobacter bacterial species from natural-gas wells in the Marcellus and Utica-Point Pleasant shale formations.

Over the years I have developed skills in multiple laboratory and analytical techniques including microscopy, chromatography (IC, LC), cultivation and characterization of bacteria from extreme environments, next-generation and Sanger DNA sequencing, genotyping, PCR/qPCR and more recently, mass spectrometry. Dr. Dannemiller served as my academic co-advisor for my master’s degree and I’m delighted to have returned to the College of Engineering to support her efforts in the BREATHE-Smart project.


Nicole Renninger

I graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.S. in Food, Agricultural, and Biological Engineering with Honors in Research Distinction in Environmental Engineering. I am currently pursuing a Masters in Environmental Engineering. I work under Dr. Karen Dannemiller optimizing a procedure to extract high quality RNA from house dust, as well as studying the effects of indoor microbial exposure on health.


Amanda Stickney

I am a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in the Environmental Science Graduate Program. I graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with minors in Applied Mathematics, Water Resources, and Spanish. I look forward to working with Dr. Dannemiller during my time at The Ohio State.


Katelyn Stuart                                                                     

I am a second-year undergraduate student at Ohio State. I am pursuing a degree in Environmental Public Health with a minor in Biology, and I am on a pre-med track. I look forward to developing my research skills with Dr. Dannemiller.                                         



John Van Dusen

I am a graduate of Loyola University Chicago with a B.S. in Biology with Molecular Emphasis and a minor in Biostatistics. I am currently working on my PhD in Microbiology. I work under Dr. Dannemiller on projects that revolve around studying fungi and viruses that are found in indoor dust samples.



Bailey Young, DO

I’m a Pediatric Pulmonary fellow at Nationwide children’s hospital currently working with the team on the BREATHE-smart research project.  I graduated from Wofford college in 2010 with my undergraduate degree in Chemistry and minor in Computer science, after that I attended Edward Via College of Osteopathic medicine – Carolinas campus where I received my medical degree in 2016, both located in Spartanburg, SC.  I then completed my residency in pediatric training at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, PA in 2019 and also stayed an extra year there where I completed my chief residency with the program.  As a current pulmonary fellow, I am working on research in Asthma as well as other related pediatric pulmonary projects.



Celine Alkhayri

A graduate of The Ohio State University with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering. Conducted research to compare measurement of Aureobasidium pullulans using next-generation DNA sequencing methods with the “goal standard” species-specific qPCR.


Victor Amesoeder

A graduate of The Ohio State University. Researched fungal growth on  materials.




Iona Campbell

A graduate of the The Ohio State University, with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering. conducted research regarding fungal growth on household materials.



Allie Donahue

A graduate of the The Ohio State University with a bachelors degree in environmental engineering, I worked under Dr. Karen Dannemiller in the Indoor Environmental Quality lab isolating V. victoriae from dust in order to study how microbial exposure relates to childhood asthma.


Quentin Platt

A graduate of The Ohio State University with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering. Researched the indoor air quality of LEED-certified buildings compared to non LEED buildings. 



Paige Frey

A graduate of The Ohio State University with a Bachelors in Environmental Engineering.  Aided in creating a smartphone app that will detect the levels formaldehyde in homes and other places with human occupancy. 




David Kormos

A graduate of The Ohio State University, with a B.S in Environmental Engineering. Conducted research which characterized the accuracy and precision of digital and quantitative PCR utilities.



Emily Weigand

I am currently a junior pursuing my B.S. in Chemical Engineering. My research focuses on identifying how different environmental factors, such as humidity, affect indoor fungal species that are known to have ill effects on human health. I have also been working towards identifying potential strains of these fungal species that exist indoors, in order to better characterize indoor fungal communities. I am excited to see how my research develops as I continue to work with Dr. Dannemiller in the upcoming years.

Ningling Zhu

Lingyi Xu

I graduated with a B.S in Environmental Engineering at The Ohio State University in 2018. I worked under Dr. Karen Dannemiller as an undergraduate research assistant, utilizing microscopy to view bacterial and fungal growth in carpet dust. This work supported Sarah Haines’s ongoing research on microbial growth in carpet dust at varying relative humidity conditions. I utilized a microscope to observe fungal growth in the carpet embedded with dust. 

Siyang Zhang (associated member)

Weiyi Qu

Caleb Solomon-McRoy