Usha Rao, Ph.D.

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

Dr. Usha Rao holds an undergraduate degree in geology (with a minor in chemistry) from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, India, and a Ph.D. in environmental geochemistry from the University of Rochester. After completing a post-doctoral fellowship in civil and 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 two merit awards for exceptional teaching. Her work at St. Joseph's has been supported by external and internal funding from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund, the National Science Foundation, the Lindback Foundation, and multiple SJU Faculty Research Grants. She has mentored 16 undergraduate students in her research laboratory, most of whom have gone on to obtain graduate degrees, from institutions including Yale University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt University. 

Dr. Rao currently serves as the Founding Director of the Office of Teaching and Learning, helping to coordinate and oversee the University's pedagogical initiatives. 


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

Ph.D. University of Rochester


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 and other pollutants in Pennsylvania’s streams that drain into the Chesapeake Bay. 

Faculty Expert Profile

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