The Team

At the Jennifer Jay Research Lab, we are proud to have a dedicated and diverse team of individuals working towards a common goal: creating a more sustainable and just future. Our team members come from a variety of academic backgrounds and bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to our work. From conducting research to engaging with local communities, our team is passionate about creating a positive impact on the world around us. Learn more about the people who make up our team below.

Our team is dedicated to discovering innovative solutions to some of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time, and sharing our findings with the wider world.

About Dr. Jennifer Jay

For the last seventeen years, Jennifer Jay has been a Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of California Los Angeles. She specializes in the fate and transport of chemical and microbial contaminants in the environment. Her research addresses a wide range of topics including coastal water quality, environmental proliferation of antibiotic resistance, and the role of environmental education in shifts toward diets with lower carbon footprints.

She was the Pritzker Fellow for Environmental Sustainability and a Carnegie Fellow for Civic Engagement in Higher Education, and she recently named a Chancellor’s Fellow for Community-Engaged Research. Jennifer also directs the Center for Environmental Research and Community Engagement (CERCE), a UCLA Center that addresses community-based environmental research questions in under-served communities in Los Angeles. She founded Meals for the Planet (, an organization with the goal of disseminating information on the connections between food and the environment. Jennifer earned her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Her classes include Aquatic Chemistry, Chemical Fate and Transport, and Foodprint: Understanding the Connections between Food and the Environment. She was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering, and two engineering school-wide award for excellence in teaching.

Meet Our Lab

Naomi Adams, Ph.D. Student

Naomi Adams (They/Them) is a PhD student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Their research involves investigating cumulative lead exposure in children living in Los Angeles. They are passionate about environmental justice, and hope their research will impact the lives of our most vulnerable communities in a beneficial way. In their free time, they enjoy nature walks, reading sci-fi novels, and playing with their kitty. A little known fact about them is that they are also a professional DJ, but taking a hiatus to pursue research.

Marisol Cira, Ph.D. Candidate

Marisol Cira (she/ella) received a B.S. and M.S. in Civil Engineering from UCLA and is currently a Ph.D. Candidate. Her graduate research investigates the sources, fate, and transport of microbial contaminants in coastal watersheds in the United States and abroad. Her research also develops and cross-validates more accessible culture-based techniques with molecular-based techniques to provide more equitable methodologies for the monitoring of coastal waters. She is also working on incorporating her research methods into the classroom to offer students course-based research experiences. Marisol is indigenous (Purépecha), an immigrant from Mexico, and a first-generation college student.

Outside of the lab, Marisol enjoys running, hiking, dancing, cooking, and crocheting.

Ileana Callejas, Ph.D. Candidate

Ileana Callejas is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She is currently teaching a microbiology lab at Mount Saint Mary’s University, and led an international fieldwork campaign in Belize during summer 2022. She also recently partnered with GeoLatinas to publish a short article in Nature Reviews Earth & Environment for Hispanic Heritage Month! The bilingual (English & Spanish) article discusses the importance and ways satellite remote sensing can be used to monitor coastal water quality.
Ileana is interested in the intersection between environmental engineering, environmental microbiology, and remote sensing. She previously worked on projects quantifying antibiotic resistance genes in commercial fertilizers in Southern California and enzyme kinetics in sub-soils in Northern California. Her research concerns the fate and transport of pollutants in water and soil, namely antibiotic resistance genes, antibiotic resistant bacteria, and pathogens. Her work will also leverage remote sensing for coastal water quality management. She received her BS in Environmental Science with a minor in Environmental Engineering in 2018 and MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2019 from UCLA. Ileana is a Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellowship & GOFP recipient, a Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science (GEM) Fellow, Charles F. Scott Fellowship recipient, and a CDLS Early-Career Fellow. She hopes to become active in teaching courses in sustainability and science education. Ileana is a first-generation Latina born and raised in Los Angeles, CA.

Yuwei Kong, Ph.D. Candidate

Yuwei Kong (she/her) is a highly motivated and enthusiastic PhD candidate in Environmental Engineering at the Jay Lab at UCLA. She has a strong academic background and a deep passion for understanding and addressing the complex challenges in environmental engineering. Yuwei’s research interests are primarily focused on developing innovative and effective approaches to monitoring and managing the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the environment, as well as applying remote sensing techniques to assess and improve water quality. Their research work involves a combination of laboratory experiments, data analysis, and field studies to investigate the impact of human activities on the environment and develop strategies to mitigate their negative effects.

In addition to their research work, Yuwei is an avid reader and a passionate gamer.

Karina Jimenez, Ph.D. Student

Karina Jimenez (she/her) began as a volunteer researcher in the Jay lab through UCLA CEED’s E87 course. Throughout her undergraduate years, she participated in several projects that resulted in being credited in two papers before she graduated in 2020. Inspired by the graduate students she worked with in the Jay lab, Karina continued her education and is now in her second year of the Environmental Engineering Ph.D. program. Outside of lab, Karina volunteers her time tutoring students from underrepresented communities in higher education and hopes to be an educator in the future.

Renate Boronowsky, Ph.D. Student

Renate Boronowksy (she/her) is a Ph.D. student interested in all things sustainable food and diet. She is a double Bruin, receiving her bachelors degree in Geography and Environmental studies with an emphasis on sustainable food systems. She comes to the lab with an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (awarded in 2020). Her interdisciplinary research has varied from using lifecycle assessment data to quantify the environmental footprint of various food policies (testing default nudges in university campus events, and various menu interventions in K-12 cafeterias), to the sustainability and safety of urban agriculture in LA county.

In her personal time she enjoys spending time with her young twins and her pets, baking sourdough bread, painting, growing food, and advocating for environmental justice and community composting in her home town of Long Beach, California.

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