Biography

Jessica Dittmar is a postdoctoral researcher in the Environmental Earth Systems Science Department and the Engineering Research Center for Re-inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure at Stanford University since 2010. Her research interests comprise contaminant dynamics in water, soils and sediments, with focus on toxic arsenic cycling, adversely affecting the health of millions of people worldwide. Jessica’s work and research focuses on two projects, one in the developing and one in the developed world. She investigates and compares pristine groundwater aquifers in Cambodia and managed aquifers in Orange County and determines the main driving forces leading to arsenic release into groundwater. Understanding the processes in both systems will help to better manage aquifers in order to prevent arsenic release into groundwater in the future.

During her PhD studies in environmental chemistry at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, Jessica investigated the seasonal cycling of arsenic in paddy fields in Bangladesh, irrigated with arsenic-rich water, and made predictions of arsenic accumulation in rice fields until 2050. For her thesis research she received the prestigious Fritz Scheffer Award for scientific excellence of young scientists from the German Soil Science Society in 2011. She was also awarded a fellowship for prospective researchers from the Swiss National Science Foundation for pursuing her postdoctoral research at Stanford University. Jessica earned both her BS in Earth Sciences in 2001 and her MS in Geochemistry in 2003 from ETH Zurich in Switzerland.

Outside of research, Jessica is interested in designing and implementing solutions for problems of the world’s poor. She aims to improve situations in an empathetic, human-centered, meaningful and sustainable way through combining her knowledge with engineering and entrepreneurial approaches to impacting peoples’ lives in developing countries. In 2012, Jessica was part of a multidisciplinary team that partnered with a local design venture in Myanmar and lowered the barrier to drip irrigation by exchanging the most expensive parts of the current system through an innovation. Currently she is part of a multidisciplinary design team collaborating with UNHCR, addressing problems arising during the early set-up of refugee camps leveraging mobile phone technology to more efficiently communicate between relief agencies and refugees.

A leader at Stanford University, Jessica is on the tours team at Stanford’s d.school, where she introduces people to the fundamentals of design thinking through exposing them to the space and the concept of the d.school. She also participates in the Ignite Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business where her multidisciplinary team develops a business strategy and plan in the green energy sector around biogas.

Besides being a scientist with a passion for design and nature, she is an avid world traveler with an endless curiosity about our planet. She was exposed to different cultures and languages throughout large portions of her life and switches fluently between German, English, French and Spanish.