Molly Costanza-Robinson

Professor of Environmental & Biosphere Studies

 
 work(802) 443-5571
 Fall 2019: Mon. 1:30-2:30 PM, Tues. 11:30AM-12:30PM, Fri. 8:30-9:30AM, and by appointment.
 McCardell Bicentennial Hall 446

Molly Costanza-Robinson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Program for Environmental Studies. She came to Middlebury in 2005 after postdoctoral research and teaching in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Northern Arizona University. She received her Ph.D. in the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science with a minor in Analytical Chemistry at The University of Arizona in 2001, and a B.S. in Chemistry and German Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1996. At Middlebury, Molly regularly teaches environmental chemistry, natural science and the environment, analytical chemistry laboratory, and the environmental studies senior seminar. She has also taught CSI: Middlebury and caveman chemistry as winter-term and first-year seminar courses.

Molly's environmental chemistry lab group focuses on understanding the physicochemical processes that influence the fate and transport of anthropogenic contamination in subsurface and engineered environments. Past projects include the application of synchrotron X-ray microtomography-based methods to investigate soil properties relevant to contaminant fate and transport; the chemical characteristics of biodiesl derived from algae grown on anaerobically digested dairy manure; as well on the transfer and biotransformation of arsenic in freshwater food webs. 

Currently, the lab is investigating the chemistry governing the uptake of organic contaminants into the interlayer of activated clay minerals. These investigations will allow the group to develop novel activated clays that optimized for removal of contaminants from wastewater. Our lab is also engaged in an interdisciplinary environmental health collaboration in which we are developing novel bioindicators that signal endocrine disruption development in a given population. 

More info is available at my website.

 

Courses

Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

CHEM 0270 - Environ. Chem & Health      

Environmental Chemistry & Health
IIn this course we will investigate the relationship between molecular structure and the behavior of chemical pollutants in natural and built environments, the science underlying health effects of toxic exposures, and environmental justice concerns associated with pollutant exposures. Through readings and active problem solving, we will examine the chemistry governing global transport and partitioning of chemicals among soils/sediments, waters, the atmosphere, and biota (including humans), as well as contaminant remediation strategies. We will study foundational principles of environmental toxicology and take a case study approach to identifying patterns of environmental injustice. In the laboratory, we will apply methods for monitoring pollution, understanding pollutant behavior, and assessing toxicity. 3 hrs. lect., 3 hrs. lab SCI

Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019

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CHEM 0311 - Instrumental Analysis      

Instrumental Analysis
This course introduces fundamental concepts of analytical chemistry, instrumental analysis, and scientific writing. Lecture topics include experimental design and quality control; sample collection and preparation; calibration, error, and data analysis; statistics; and the theory and operation of chemical instrumentation. Multi-week laboratory projects provide hands-on experience in qualitative and quantitative analysis using a variety of research-quality instrumentation (e.g., graphite furnace atomic absorption spectroscopy, UV/Vis spectrometry, gas chromatography mass spectrometry, circular dichroism spectroscopy, high pressure liquid chromatography). Writing workshops promote professional scientific writing skills through guided practice in writing analysis, peer review, and revision. (CHEM 0204 or CHEM 0242) 3 hr. lect., 6 hrs. lab. CW

Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019

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CHEM 0500 - Independent Study      

Independent Study Project
Individual study for qualified students. (Approval required)

Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020

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CHEM 0700 - Senior Research      

Senior Research
In this course students complete individual projects involving laboratory research on a topic chosen by the student and a faculty advisor. Prior to registering for CHEM 0700, a student must have discussed and agreed upon a project topic with a faculty member in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. Attendance at all Chemistry and Biochemistry Department seminars is expected. (Approval required; open only to seniors)

Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020

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CHEM 0701 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
Students who have initiated research projects in CHEM 0400 and who plan to complete a senior thesis should register for CHEM 0701. Students are required to write a thesis, give a public presentation, and defend their thesis before a committee of at least three faculty members. The final grade will be determined by the department. Attendance at all Chemistry and Biochemistry Department seminars is expected. (CHEM 0400; approval required)

Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020

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ENVS 0112 - Natural Science & Environment      

Natural Science and the Environment
We will explore in detail a series of current environmental issues in order to learn how principles of biology, chemistry, geology, and physics, as well as interdisciplinary scientific approaches, help us to identify and understand challenges to environmental sustainability. In lecture, we will examine global environmental issues, including climate change, water and energy resources, biodiversity and ecosystem services, human population growth, and world food production, as well as the application of science in forging effective, sustainable solutions. In the laboratory and field, we will explore local manifestations of global issues via experiential and hands-on approaches. 3 hrs. lect., 3 hrs. lab. SCI

Spring 2017, Fall 2018

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ENVS 0401 - Community Engaged Practicum      

Community-Engaged Environmental Studies Practicum
In this course students work in small groups with one of a variety of partners and organizations to complete a semester-long, community-engaged project. Project themes vary by term and typically focus on local and regional environmental issues that have broader application. Projects rely on students’ creativity, interdisciplinary perspectives, skills, and knowledge developed through their previous work. The project is guided by a faculty member and carried out with a high degree of independence by the students. Students will prepare for and direct their project work through readings and discussion, independent research, collaboration with project partners, and consultation with external experts. The course may also include workshops focused on developing key skills (e.g., interviewing, public speaking, video editing). The project culminates in a public presentation of students’ final products, which may various forms such as written reports, policy white papers, podcasts, or outreach materials. (Open to Juniors and Seniors) (ENVS 0112, ENVS 0211, ENVS 0215, GEOG 0120 or GEOG 0150) 3 hrs. sem./3 hrs. lab

Spring 2020

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ENVS 0500 - Independent Study      

Independent Study
In this course, students (non-seniors) carry out an independent research or creative project on a topic pertinent to the relationship between humans and the environment. The project, carried out under the supervision of a faculty member with related expertise who is appointed in or affiliated with the Environmental Studies Program, must involve a significant amount of independent research and analysis. The expectations and any associated final products will be defined in consultation with the faculty advisor. Students may enroll in ENVS 0500 no more than twice for a given project. (Approval only)

Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020

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ENVS 0700 - Senior Independent Study      

Senior Independent Study
In this course, seniors complete an independent research or creative project on a topic pertinent to the relationship between humans and the environment. During the term prior to enrolling in ENVS 0700, a student must discuss and agree upon a project topic with a faculty advisor who is appointed in or affiliated with the Environmental Studies Program and submit a brief project proposal to the Director of Environmental Studies for Approval. The expectations and any associated final products will be defined in consultation with the faculty advisor. Students may enroll in ENVS 0700 as a one-term independent study OR up to twice as part of a multi-term project, including as a lead-up to ENVS 0701 (ES Senior Thesis). (Senior standing; Approval only)

Fall 2015, Winter 2016, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Winter 2017, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Winter 2018, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020

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MBBC 0700 - Senior Research      

Senior Thesis
Seniors conducting independent study in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry should register for MBBC 0700 unless they are completing a thesis project in which case they should register for MBBC 0701. (Approval required).

Winter 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020

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MBBC 0701 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
Students conducting independent thesis research in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry must register for MBBC 0701 while completing research projects initiated in BIOL 0500, MBBC 0700, or CHEM 0400. Students will organize and lead regular discussions of their research and research methods, and attend weekly meetings with their designated laboratory group to foster understanding of their special area, and practice the stylistic and technical aspects of scientific writing needed to write their thesis. (CHEM 0400 or BIOL 0500 or MBBC 0700) (Approval required).

Spring 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020

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Publications  (undergraduate authors are underlined)

Foust, R. D.;Bauer, A.-M.; Costanza-Robinson, M. S.; Blinn, D. W.; Prince, R. C.; Pickering, I. J.; George, G. N. Arsenic transfer and biotransformation in a fully characterized freshwater food web. Coordination Chemistry Reviews, 2015, doi: 10.1016/j.ccr.2015.03.005.

Costanza-Robinson, M. S., Carlson, T. D., Brusseau, M. L. Vapor-phase transport of trichloroethene in an intermediate-scale vadose-zone system: Retention processes and partitioning-tracer-based prediction. Journal of Contaminant Hydrology 2013, 145, 82-89.

Costanza-Robinson, M. S., Zheng, Z., Henry, E. J., Estabrook, B. D., Littlefield, M. H. Implications of surfactant-induced flow for miscible-displacement estimation of air-water interfacial areas in unsaturated porous media. Environmental Science and Technology 2012, 46, 11206-11212, doi:10.1021/es303003v.

Costanza-Robinson, M. S., Estabrook, B. D., Fouhey, D. F. Representative elementary volume estimation for porosity, moisture saturation, and air-water interfacial areas in unsaturated porous media: Data quality implications. Water Resources Research 2011, 47, W07513, doi:10.1029/2010WR009655.

Levine, R. B., Costanza-Robinson, M. S., Spatafora, G. Neochloris oleoabundans grown ondairy wastewater for concomitant nutrient removal and biodiesel feedstock production. Biomass and Bioenergy 2011, 35, 40-49, doi:10.1016/j.biombioe.2010.08.035.

Costanza-Robinson, M. S.; Harrold, K. H.; Lieb-Lappen, R. M. X-ray microtomography determination of air-water interfacial area-water saturation relationships in sandy porous media. Environmental Science and Technology 2008, 42, 2949-2956, doi: 10.1021/es072080d.

Robinson, M. S.; Stoller, F. L.; Costanza-Robinson, M. S.; Jones, J. K. Write Like a Chemist: A Guide and Resource. Oxford University Press: New York, 2008.

Brusseau, M. L.; Peng, S.; Schnaar, G.; Costanza-Robinson, M. S. Relationships among air-water interfacial area, capillary pressure, and water saturation for a sandy porous medium. Water Resources Research 2006, 42, W03501, doi:10.1029/2005WR004058.

Costanza-Robinson, M. S.; Brusseau, M. L. Gas-phase dispersion in porous media. In Gas Transport in Porous Media, Ho, C. K., Webb, S. W., Eds.; Theory and Applications of Transport in Porous Media, Vol. 20, Springer, 2006; pp 121-132.

Stoller, F. L.; Jones, J. K.; Costanza-Robinson, M. S.; Robinson, M. S. Demystifying disciplinary writing: A case study in the writing of chemistry. Language and Learning Across the Disciplines 2005, May 15.

Brusseau, M. L.; Nelson, N. T.; Costanza-Robinson, M. S. Partitioning tracer tests for characterizing immiscible fluid saturations and interfacial areas in the vadose zone. Vadose Zone Journal 2003, 2, 138-147.

Carlson, T. D.; Costanza-Robinson, M. S.; Keller, J.; Brusseau, M. L. Evaluation of gas-phase partitioning tracers for measurement of soil-water content in an intermediate scale system. Soil Science Society of America Journal 2003, 67, 483-486.

Costanza-Robinson, M. S.; Brusseau, M. L. Air-water interfacial areas in unsaturated soils:  Evaluation of interfacial domains. Water Resources Research 2002, 38, doi: 10.1029/2001WR000738.

Costanza-Robinson, M. S.; Brusseau, M. L. Gas-phase advection and dispersion in unsaturated porous media. Water Resources Research 2002, 38, 1036. doi:10.1029/2001WR000895.

Costanza, M. S.; Brusseau, M. L. Contaminant vapor adsorption at the gas-water interface of soils. Environmental Science and Technology 2000, 34, 1-11.

Nelson, N. T.; Brusseau, M. L.; Carlson, T. D.; Costanza, M. S.; Young, M. H.; Johnson, G. R.; Wierenga, P. J. The partitioning tracer method for in-situ measurement of water content. Water Resources Research 1999, 35, 3699-3707.

Aldstadt, J. H.; Batson, C. H.; Martin, A. F.; Erickson, M. D.; Costanza, M. S.; Foster, M. B. J.; James, T. R.; Doskey, P. V. Development and preliminary evaluation of a cone penetrometer-based method for in situ determination of volatile organic compounds in groundwater. Field Analytical Chemistry and Technology 1997, 1, 239-247.

Doskey, P. V.; Aldstadt, J. H.; Kuo, J. M; Costanza, M. S. Evaluation of an in situ on-line purging system for the cone penetrometer. Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association 1996, 46, 1081-1085.

Doskey, P. V.; Costanza, M. S.; Hansen, M. C.; Kickels, W. T. A solid sorbent method for the collection and analysis of volatile halogenated organic compounds in soil gas. Journal of Chromatography A 1996, 738, 73-81.

Research and Curricular Funding

Costanza-Robinson, M.S. RUI: Elucidating Interlayer Chemistry for Design of Novel, Nontoxic Organoclays for Contaminant Remediation. National Science Foundation Environmental Chemical Sciences, September 2015-2018, $210,000.

Ashcraft, C.M.; Costanza-Robinson, M.S.; Gould, R.K.; Isham, J.; McCauley, M.; Munroe, D.L. (co-PIs). Campuses for Environmental Stewardship Grant. New England Regional Campus Compact and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, June 2013-July 2014, $5,000.

Cunningham, M. A.; Johnson, L.; Muthukrishnan, S.; Costanza-Robinson, M. S. Sustainability in Europe: The Limits of Possibility. Mellon Foundation Faculty Career Enhancement Project, May-August 2011, $63,317.

Costanza-Robinson, M.S. RUI: Measurement and Microtomographic Imaging of the Air-Water Interface in Unsaturated Porous Media Supplement. National Science Foundation Geosciences Hydrology Program, November 2009-2010, $9,700.

Trubek, A. (PI, University of Vermont) with Almena-Aliste, M. (UVM); Costanza-Robinson, M. S. (Middlebury); Elder, J. (Midd); Munroe, J. (Midd). The Taste of Place-Maple Syrup Project. Cornelius King Charitable Trust, January-December 2008, $20,000.

Costanza-Robinson, M.S. RUI: Measurement and Microtomographic Imaging of the Air-Water Interface in Unsaturated Porous Media. National Science Foundation, September 2007-2010, $200,000.

Costanza-Robinson, M.S. Microtomographic Imaging of the Air-Water Interfacial Area in Unsaturated Porous Media. American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund, Type GB, September 2007-2009, $40,000.

Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry

McCardell Bicentennial Hall
276 Bicentennial Way
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753