Earth Sciences Division (ESD) Department of Energy (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)

Earth Sciences Division Staff: Charuleka Varadharajan

Charuleka Varadharajan

Charuleka Varadharajan


Geochemistry Department



Phone: 510-495-8890

Fax: 510-486-5686


Biographical Summary

As a biogeochemist, I am generally interested in studying the nexus of carbon, water and energy, especially in the context of climate change. My research seeks to understand and predict carbon fluxes in terrestrial and subsurface environments, as well as develop methods for monitoring and mitigation of contaminants and greenhouse gases. My work uses a combination of different methods that span across a wide range of length and time scales including micro X-ray synchrotron spectroscopy, lab-scale bench experiments, and sensor-based field-scale data collection. I am also interested in using geoinformatics and statistical/wavelet-based data processing as tools to manage and analyze high spatial and temporal resolution data.


  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Cambridge, MA (2009)
    Ph.D., Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    Thesis: Magnitude and Spatio-Temporal Variability of Methane Emissions from a Eutrophic Freshwater Lake
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Cambridge, MA (2004)
    Master of Science, Civil and Environmental Engineering
    Thesis: A Wavelet-Based System for Event Detection in Online Real-Time Sensor Data
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Madras - Chennai, India (2001)
    Bachelor of Technology, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    Thesis: Integrated Coastal Zone Management using Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Professional Experience

  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory - Berkeley, CA
    Scientist (March 2014 – present)
    • Working on data management, assimiliation and analysis of  environmental datasets. Enabling integration of geochemical, biological,  hydrological and geophysical data across different semantic, spatial  and temporal scales
    • Assessing potential environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing on groundwater in California
  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory - Berkeley, CA
    Postdoctoral Fellow (2010 – 2014)
    Supervisor: Dr. Peter S. Nico
    Studying biogeochemistry of pollutants in shallow underground waters and sediments. Projects involve:
    • Assessing impacts of potential leakage of carbon dioxide from geologic carbon sequestration sites to overlying groundwater aquifers
    • Determining the mechanisms and effectiveness of chromium (VI) bioremediation using laboratory and spectroscopic methods
  • Parsons Laboratory for Environmental Science and Engineering, MIT - Cambridge, MA
    Graduate Student (2004 – Sept 2009)
    Advisor: Prof. Harold F. Hemond
    Examined contribution of freshwater lakes to climate change due to the release of methane. Designed and conducted a 3-year field and laboratory study of methane cycle and emissions from a lake, focusing on bubbling. Analyzed time-series sensor data of methane bubbling using several statistical approaches, including a novel, wavelet-based method. Results indicated that methane bubbling was triggered by changes in hydrostatic pressure, and that lakes should be considered important natural sources in the global methane budget.
  • Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, MIT - Cambridge, MA
    Teaching Assistant (2005 2008)
    Taught “Introduction to Computers and Engineering Problem Solving” (Java programming) Instructed a total of ~100 students over 3 years. Collaborated with a team of 5-8 teaching assistants and 2 professors to create and review course material, and to conduct tutorials and office hours.
  • Center for Educational Computing and Initiatives, MIT - Cambridge, MA
    Research Assistant
    • i-Labs project (2003 – 2005)
      Programmed web services in C#, created a SQL database, and designed APIs and web pages for software used by universities to create online real-time laboratories.
    • Jewish Women’s Archive (2001 – 2003)
      Designed and maintained a Java-based website and a backend Oracle database.
  • Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, IIT Madras - Chennai, India
    Undergraduate Student (2000 – 2001)
    Worked on a decision support system based on systems analysis for integrated coastal zone management in the Gulf of Kachchh, India. Created a GIS based tool to assess the impacts of industrialization and urbanization on ecological features of the coast.

Fellowship and Awards

  • Earth Sciences Division Spot Award, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (June 2014)
  • Earth Sciences Division Spot Award, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (June 2011)
  • MIT Linden Earth System Fellow (2008-09)
  • National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (2007)
  • Geological Society of America Graduate Student Research Grant (2007)
  • MIT Martin Family Society Fellow for Sustainability (2005-06)
  • MIT Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Trond Kaalstad Award for leadership, community building and academic excellence (2005)
  • Institute Blues for exceptional extra-curricular and organizational abilities, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (2001)
  • National Talent Search Award for academic excellence, National Council of Educational Research & Training, Government of India (1995)

Professional Activities

  • Technical Coordinator, EPA/LBNL CO2 Geologic Sequestration & Water  Resources Workshop, Berkeley, Jun 2011. Organized the workshop and was  involved in determining workshop themes, selecting and inviting  participants, coordinating logistics and writing a report for the EPA.
  • Lead, Sustainable Systems SFA Junior Staff Discussion Group, Earth Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Organized talks and discussions for ESD early career staff  involved in subsurface biogeoscience remediation projects sponsored by  DoE.
  • Reviewer for Greenhouse Gases: Science and Technology, Chemical Geology, and SBR Grants