Meet the Team

Liyuan Hou - Principal Investigator


Phone: (435) 797-1533

Personal Website:

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Liyuan (Joanna) Hou

Principal Investigator

Hi, I am Joanna, an assistant professor in the Utah Water Research Laboratory and Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. I also serve as an adjunct professor in the Biological Engineering Department.  As a female engineer, my long-term goal is to strike a balance between doing research and applying my findings and theories in practice in such a way that ultimately impacted the world. In my spare time, I love hiking, painting, reading, playing tennis, and designing jewelry and acrylic nails. 

Current Members

Peerzada Madany

Graduate (Ph.D.), Since 8/2023

Hello, my name is Peerzada Madany, and I’m a PhD student at Utah State University in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. I received my bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Khulna University of Engineering & Technology in Bangladesh, and master’s degree in civil engineering at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in Illinois, USA. During my bachelor's and master’s, my research interests focused on environmental microbiology, specifically with a focus on implementation of appropriate disinfection technologies to ensure clean water and air for the environment. During my free time, hiking and photography are my favorite things to do.

Tahira Rahman

Graduate (M.S.), Since 8/2022

Hi, I am Tahira, I obtained my bachelor's degree in Bangladesh, and my previous undergraduate research focused on studying the ecological impact of contamination in river water and sediment. Now, I'm an M.S. student in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at USU. My current research aims to apply the knowledge of environmental microbiology to nutrient removal and bioplastic production in wastewater. When I'm not in the lab, I love traveling and am an amateur fact-reader who enjoys learning about human geography.

Ceaira Howard

Graduate (M.S.), Since 6/2023

Hi, I'm Ceaira. I recently received my BS degree in Biological Engineering from Utah State University, and I am working toward my MS degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering. As an undergrad, I performed research focusing on genetic and metabolic engineering of bacterial cell cultures for the production of pharmaceuticals and natural compounds. Today, I am using these laboratory principles to engineer new ways of processing wastewater through the use of diatoms to reduce pollutants. I enjoy doing research and look forward to using my education to better the world we live in. When I'm not in the lab, I like to spend my time outdoors and traveling to new places.

Emily Samuels

Undergraduate RA, Since 4/2024

Hi, my name is Emily. I am a junior in biochemistry with an interest in microbiological research. I have lab experience working in cGMP large-scale liquid media formulation, microbiology, and quality control. I am particularly interested in algal research for the bioremediation of wastewater pollutants as well as the utilization of closed-loop renewable energy systems. In my spare time, I like playing pool, tennis, snowboarding, writing music, and hiking. I look forward to using my education to make a greater impact on the world we live in. 

Brody Whiteaker

Undergraduate RA, Since 5/2024

Hi, I’m Brody. Originally from the Seattle area, I am a Junior at Utah State University studying Environmental Engineering. I’m especially interested in wastewater treatment, hydraulic engineering, and mitigating our impact on freshwater ecosystems. In my free time I enjoy skiing, rock climbing, and playing music.

Angela Zhan

High School Volunteer, Since 11/2022

Hi, I am a sophomore at Logan High School. I have been interested in science and involved in scientific research since elementary school, and I am passionate about developing novel solutions to global plastic pollution. Through my research, I became a two-time top 30 finalist of Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars) and a finalist of the 2022 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. 


Sarah O. Makled

Visiting Scholar (9/2023 - 12/2023)

I am Sarah O. Makled, a marine biologist and assistant professor at the Oceanography Department, Faculty of Science, Alexandria University, Egypt. My research explores the biomedical, biotechnological, and nanotechnological applications of marine organisms, to address the critical water scarcity issues through innovative wastewater treatment. My life's aspiration is to travel all over the world, engaging with diverse cultures and embracing new challenges.  

Donald Olsen

Undergraduate RA (12/2022 - 12/2023)

Hello, my name is Donald Olsen, and I am an undergraduate researcher at Utah State University in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department. I am a senior in civil engineering and will be graduating with my bachelor’s degree in May of 2023. For my research, I will be looking at the possibility of using specific species of diatoms for the removal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products from wastewater streams. In my free time, I enjoy running, hiking, playing board and card games, and spending time with friends.

Alaa Elmesery

Visiting Scholar (2/2024 - 5/2024)

Hello, I am Alaa Elmesery, a biotechnologist with a BS in Biotechnology from the Faculty of Science, Tanta University, Egypt. I am pursuing an M.S. in Biotechnology at Beni-Suef University in Egypt. My research focuses on the adsorption and remediation of various pollutants utilizing diatoms, microalgae, and various materials. Beyond my academic pursuits, I aspire to explore diverse cultures by traveling worldwide.

Diversity Statement

We aim to create a welcoming and inclusive community for people from every perspective. We value the contributions of each person and respect the profound ways that races, ethnicities, languages, religions, ages, disabilities, identities, genders, socioeconomic statuses, and opinions enrich the university community.