Cristina Marcillo

Biological Systems Engineering

Cristina has always been interested in understanding the natural world around her. She first learned of environmental engineering from her high school science teachers at Boston Latin School, who expressed the importance of using science and engineering to benefit society.

In the spring 2016, Cristina graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering from Saint Francis University. While there, she researched the co-treatment of acid mine drainage with municipal wastewater in central PA and Potosí, Bolivia, a promising method to treat both waste streams. As an REU student at Clarkson University, she has also investigated the persistence of pesticides in Adirondack lake sediments.


In August 2016, Cristina joined the Department of Biological Systems Engineering as a PhD student under Dr. Leigh-Anne Krometis. Her research identifies drinking water challenges distinct between urban and rural regions of the US to quantify community contaminant exposure, under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). This study uses geospatial tools, with Virginia as a pilot state, to identify at-risk communities and water systems for subsequent public health intervention. In the second part of her research, US drinking water legislation is contrasted with developing nation water policy in Guatemala. Increased resource extraction in rural Guatemala has led to national concern over contaminated drinking water sources. While Guatemala has set drinking water standards for a number of hazardous contaminants, policy enforcement and community-right-to-know provisions are significantly limited. A pilot study in San Rafael Las Flores, Guatemala sets baseline water quality data for households served by public drinking water systems and recommends policy improvements from lessons learned through the US SDWA.

Cristina is also highly involved with outreach programs that promote diversity in engineering and engage young students in engineering problem solving. As a past graduate assistant with VT’s Center for the Enhancement of Engineering, she worked with the NSF-funded Network for Engineering Transfer Students program, which provides multiple forms of support to low income and underrepresented minority community college students to transfer to Virginia Tech College of Engineering. She was also the graduate student adviser for the Pre-College Initiative program within the National Society of Black Engineers, where underrepresented minority high school students travel to Virginia Tech to explore various engineering discipline through a day of hands-on activities and networking with faculty and students. She also volunteers with VT’s Partnering with Educators and Engineers in Rural Schools program in the Engineering Education department, which develops and teaches engineering curricula to middle school students in rural VA to inspire the pursuit of STEM careers.