Usha Rao, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Office: Science Center 418
Phone: (610) 660-1786
Fax: (610) 660-1783

Dr. Usha Rao obtained an undergraduate degree in Geology from St. Xavier’s College of the University of Bombay, India, prior to coming to the United States to earn a Ph.D. in Geochemistry at the University of Rochester. She was an Environmental Research Council post-doctoral fellow in Environmental Engineering and Geological Sciences at Northwestern University. Dr. Rao joined the Department of Chemistry at St. Joseph’s University in 2000, where she is currently an Associate Professor of Environmental Chemistry and Geochemistry. Dr. Rao’s classroom teaching has been recognized by a merit award for “exceptional achievement in teaching.”

At Saint Joseph’s, Dr. Rao is the Associate Director of the McNulty Scholars Program for Excellence in Science and Math, a scholarship and leadership development program for exceptionally gifted women students in the STEM disciplines. Dr. Rao also serves as a Board Trustee of the Ardmore Library of the Lower Merion Library System, one of the highest ranked library systems in the country. She has a long-standing commitment to projects promoting children's literacy and scientific literacy, providing invited reviews of approximately 100 new books each year and developing projects to enhance children's reading activities.


B.Sc. St. Xavier’s College, University of Bombay (1990)

Ph.D.University of Rochester (1997)

Courses Taught

  • General Chemistry Lecture I
  • General Chemistry Lecture II
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Pollution and Public Health (Freshman Seminar)
  • Environmental Theory and Ethics (Ethics overlay)
  • Exploring the Earth (GEP)
  • General Chemistry Laboratory I
  • General Chemistry Laboratory II


  • Rao. U.; Hollocher, K.; Sherman, J.; Eisele, I.; †Frunzi, M.N.; Swatkoski, S.J.; Hammons, A.L. The use of 36Cl and chloride/bromide ratios in discerning salinity sources and fluid mixing patterns: A case study at Saratoga Springs. Chemical Geology, 2005, 222, 94-111.
  • Rao, U; Muramatsu, Y; Kruge, M; Elmore, D. “Incorporation of I-129 from nuclear sources into lacustrine sedimentary organic matter: a case study in the Great Lakes,” Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 2005, 69, A713-A713.
  • Snyder, GT; Fehn, U; Muramatsu, Y; Sultana, MS; Moran, JE; Rao, U. “Factors influencing the global distribution of iodine-129 in the environment: A look at the iodine cycle in surface reservoirs,” Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 2004, 68, A491-A491.
  • Rao, U.; Fehn, U.; Muramatsu, Y.; McNeil, H.; Sharma, P.; Elmore, D. Tracing the History of Nuclear Releases: Determination of 129I in Tree Rings. Environ. Sci. Tech. 2002, 36, 1271-1275.
  • Rao, U.; Fehn, U. Sources, Reservoirs, and Transport Pathways of Anthropogenic 129I in Western New York, Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 1999, 63,1927-1938.
  • Rao, U.; Fehn, U. The Distribution of 129I around West Valley, An Inactive Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility in Western New York. Nuclear Instr. Meth. 1997, B123, 361-366.
  • Rao, U.; Fehn, U.; Teng, R.T.D.; Goff, F., "Sources of Chloride in Hydrothermal Fluids from the Valles Caldera, New Mexico: A 36Cl Study", J. Volcanol. Geotherm. Res., 1996, 72, 59-70.
  • Rao, U.; Fehn, U.; Teng, R.T.D.; Goff, F., "Application of 36Cl to the Tracing of Hydrothermal Fluids in the Valles Caldera System", New Mexico Geological Association Guidebook on the Jemez Mountains, University of New Mexico and Los Alamos National Laboratory, 1996.
  • Moran, J.E.; Teng, R.T.D.; Rao, U.; Fehn, U., "Detection of Iodide in Geologic Samples for Environmental Applications", J. Ion Chromat. A 1995, 706, 215-220.
  • Fehn, U.; Moran, J.E.; Teng, R.T.D.; Rao, U. "Dating and Tracing of Crustal Fluids using 129I and 36Cl: Results from Geothermal Fluids, Oilfield Brines and Formation Waters", Nucl. Instr. Meth. 1994, B92, 380-384.


Dr. Rao’s research interests lie in the study of the presence of environmental pollutants in bodies of water, soil and sediment. At SJU, she and her students have studied the sources of salinity in a spring water system at Saratoga Springs, NY, and analyzed the bottom sediments of Lake Ontario for the presence of iodine radionuclides released during nuclear fuel reprocessing. More recently, the Rao group has been analyzing the distribution of metals in Pennsylvania’s streams that drain into the Chesapeake Bay. Dr. Rao’s research has been funded by grants from the American Chemical Society-Petroleum Research Fund, the Lindback Foundation, and the SJU Faculty Development Program.

Faculty Expert Profile

  • Expertise: Water Quality and Pollution, Nuclear Contamination, Energy Use and Marcellus Shale Drilling, Women in Science and Math