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Cochrane Fellowship Fund

Established in 2017 by Dr. John J. Cochrane, Professor Emeritus and former Department Chair of the Northeastern University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Cochrane Fellowship Fund provides opportunities for doctoral students to explore cutting edge research and education at Northeastern University. The fellowship provides select students studying in the area of Environmental Engineering or Science full funding for the first academic year, allowing them to conduct research and progress in their coursework while working toward their PhD with their faculty advisors.

Cochrane Fellows


2017 Fellow Cassandra Nickles, 2017 Fellow Katherine Vilardi, John Cochrane, and 2018 Fellows Alanna Sparagna and Michael Knapp


2018 Cohort

Alanna Sparagna

Alanna Sparagna attended Smith College in Northampton, MA, graduating in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry and French. While attending Smith, she served as a Student Researcher in Aqueous Geochemistry and Environmental Analytical Chemistry, as a Student Liaison for the French Department, and as a Representative of the Social Justice and Equity Committee. Upon graduation, she worked as a Chemist for Nalas Engineering Services Inc., and later as a Pretreatment Manager and Lab Technician for the town of Wareham's Water Pollution Control Facility. She is a member of Sigma Xi, a science research honors society.

At Northeastern, Alanna works with her advisor, Assistant Professor Loretta Fernandez, in the Environmental Organic Chemistry Laboratory. They study the ways in which man-made chemical contaminants accumulate and move through the environment.


Michael Knapp

Graduating in 2018, Michael Knapp double majored in Environmental Engineering and Political Science at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. While completing his undergraduate degree, he worked as a Student Assistant to the Design Group for the New York Department of Transportation, where he assisted with wetland delineations and redesigned aspects of existing sidewalks to meet regulatory standards. He interned for the Mohawk Valley Water Authority in Potsdam, NY and served as a tutor to fellow students at his university. Michael completed his Eagle Scout Service Project in 2014.

At Northeastern, Michael studies environmental engineering and environmental health under the direction of his PhD advisors, Assistant Professor Loretta Fernandez and Associate Professor Philip Larese-Casanova.


2017 Cohort

Katherine Vilardi

A Rhode Island native, Katherine Vilardi graduated from the Wentworth Institute of Technology with a Civil Engineering degree in 2017. While at Wentworth, she was a member of the Women’s Institute of Leadership Development and the Wentworth Leadership Institute, as well as the philanthropy committee head for the Phi Sigma Pi Honors Fraternity. She worked extensively in undergraduate research at Wentworth, and held positions at the Harvard School of Public Health and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. She was an honorable mention for the National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship.

Currently, Katherine works with Dr. Ameet Pinto’s lab, focusing on environmental microbiology. She is a member of Graduate Women in Science and Engineering, as well as Students of Environmental and Water Resources Engineering, Research, and Sustainability.


Cassandra Nickles

Hailing from Los Angeles, CA, Cassandra Nickles graduated Loyola Marymount University with a Civil Engineering degree and a minor in Applied Mathematics in 2017. While at Loyola, she served as President of the American Society of Civil Engineers, was a member of the Marians Service Organization, and was an active undergraduate researcher in their labs. She was awarded the College Scholar Award for the Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering, as well as the Seaver College of Science and Engineering 2017 Jerome K. Doolan Award, a 2017 Presidential Citation, and the Slattery-Burns Engineering Full Scholarship Recipient

Currently, Cassandra works with Dr. Ed Beighley on a project supported by NASA's SWOT program. They plan to launch a satellite in 2021 that will analyze the Earth's surface water, enabling hydrologic discovery, model advancements and new applications currently not possible or conceivable. She is an active volunteer at the local Boys and Girls Club, and this is her first year in the PhD program at Northeastern University.

John J. Cochrane

Dr. Cochrane graduated from Northeastern University in 1960 with a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering. He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and returned to join the College of Engineering faculty in 1965, and remained a professor at the College for 30 years. He served as chair of the department from 1977 to 1980 and retired as Professor Emeritus in 2000. As a licensed professional engineer, he consulted on a number of environmental engineering projects in the Northeast. Throughout his career, Dr. Cochrane was active in professional societies including the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, the New England Water Environment Association, and the New England Waterworks Association. Those in our community who worked with Dr. Cochrane during his tenure at Northeastern will remember him to be an avid skier and sailboat racer, two activities that he continues to be involved with today.