Civil and Environmental Engineering Ph.D. Student Profile – Laura Markley

 Civil and Environmental Engineering Ph.D. Student Profile – Laura Markley

November 23, 2020

Laura Markley

Hometown: Preston, CT

Environmental Engineering PhD

Advisor: Charlie Driscoll and Andria Costello Staniec

Communicating science to inform policy is Laura Markley’s inspiration for looking at the life cycle of plastics and their impacts on human and environmental health. “I hope people will change their relationship with plastic—not demonize or ignore it but look at it as a resource.”

She chose Syracuse University to study environmental science because of the opportunities for interdisciplinary work. As EMPOWER trainee, she is working on three distinct but related projects. One is focused on sampling lakes in central New York to determine the potential sources and fate of microplastics in surface waters, especially, how microplastic may vary over time and with varying land use. In her second project she examines the health impact, especially on the endocrine system, of plastic water bottles by studying the release of estrogenic compounds under different storage conditions. This project is in collaboration with the Syracuse Biomaterials Institute and the Henderson lab. Lastly, she seeks to understand public’s attitudes towards plastic use and waste. For this project, she uses data collected from the Futuristic February campaign, run through social media.

Markley won federal and state funding for her research, under the guidance of her advisors, Professor Charles Driscoll and Professor Andria Costello Staniec.

“Learning how to apply for grants, come up with methodology in a new field, plan and manage a budget, and come to conclusions on my own are some of the most important skills I gained in the Syracuse University PhD program.”

Markley also focused on the best ways to communicate science and STEM concepts to the public. She made a website,, dedicated to sustainability and reducing waste.

In her free time, Markley does graphic design. She is currently working on the design of a cookbook with low waste, vegan recipes.