Molly Costanza-Robinson
Office
McCardell Bicentennial Hall 446
Tel
(802) 443-5571
Email
mcostanz@middlebury.edu
Office Hours
2022/2023: On leave
Additional Programs
Academic Affairs Chemistry and Biochemistry Environmental Studies

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. 

Courses Taught

Course Description

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

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

Requirements

SCI

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Course Description

Instrumental Analysis
In this course we will learn 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., UV/Vis spectrophotometry, gas chromatography mass spectrometry, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry). 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.

Terms Taught

Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021

Requirements

CW

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Course Description

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

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Spring 2024

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Course Description

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)

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Spring 2024

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Course Description

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)

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Spring 2024

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Course Description

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

Terms Taught

Spring 2020

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Course Description

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)

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Spring 2024

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Course Description

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) or ENVS 0703 (ES Senior Integrated Thesis). (Senior standing; Approval only)

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Spring 2024

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Course Description

Senior Thesis
This course is the culminating term of a multi-term independent project, resulting in a senior thesis on a topic pertinent to the relationship between humans and the environment. Approval to enroll is contingent on successful completion of at least one term (and up to two) of ENVS 0700 and the approval of the student’s thesis committee. The project, carried out under the supervision of a faculty advisor who is appointed in or affiliated with the Environmental Studies Program, will result in a substantial piece of scholarly work that will be presented to other ENVS faculty and students in a public forum and defended before the thesis committee. (Senior standing; ENVS major; ENVS 0112, ENVS 0211, ENVS 0215, GEOG 0120, and ENVS 0700; Approval only)

Terms Taught

Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023

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Course Description

Senior Independent Research
Seniors conducting independent research in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry under the guidance of a faculty mentor should register for MBBC 0700 unless they are completing a thesis project (in which case they should register for MBBC 0701). Additional requirements include attendance at all MBBC-sponsored seminars and seminars sponsored by the faculty mentor’s department, and participation in any scheduled meetings and disciplinary sub-groups and lab groups. (Approval required).

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023, Spring 2024

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Course Description

Senior Thesis
This course is for seniors completing independent thesis research in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry that was initiated in BIOL 0500, CHEM 0400, MBBC 0500, or MBBC 0700. Students will attend weekly meetings with their designated research group and engage in one-on-one meetings with their research mentor to foster understanding in their specialized research area. Students will also practice the stylistic and technical aspects of scientific writing needed to write their thesis. (BIOL 0500, CHEM 0400, MBBC 0500, MBBC 0700) (Approval required).

Terms Taught

Spring 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022, Winter 2023, Spring 2023, Spring 2024

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Publications

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.