Elsie Sunderland

Fred Kavli Professor of Environmental Chemistry and

Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences

Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and

Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences


T: 617-496-0858 | Email | 29 Oxford Street, Room 127 | Research Group Home

Short Bio


Professor Elsie Sunderland is the Fred Kavli Professor of Environmental Chemistry and Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University where she leads the Biogeochemistry of Global Contaminants Research Group. Her research aims to better understand how chemical pollutants interact with natural ecosystems and affect life. Her group quantitatively analyzes the entire exposure pathway for pollutants to identify key processes that have a large influence on their accumulation in living organisms. Her research combines environmental measurements with statistical and mechanistic simulation models to project chemical levels over space and time. This integrated approach allows better understanding of how human activities and climate change are affecting human and ecological health risks associated with exposure to environmental toxicants.


Prior to joining the Harvard Faculty, Prof. Sunderland spent five years at the headquarters for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency working on regulatory impact assessments and developing guidance on how to best use environmental models to inform regulatory decisions. Over the past 20 years, she has collaborated extensively with indigenous groups, NGOs, and governmental organizations. Her work has informed strategies for managing risks associated with environmental chemical exposures from energy infrastructure such as coal-fired power plants and hydroelectric dams, and federal and international regulatory efforts for mercury and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).


Professor Sunderland has mentored >40 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and is a Clarivate Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher. She is the Editor-in-Chief for the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts and is a member of the editorial advisory boards for several journals including Environmental Science & Technology and ACS Environmental Au. Prof. Sunderland received her B.Sc. from McGill University and Ph.D. from Simon Fraser University in Canada. Outside of science, she is interested in dogs (particularly if they have beards), running, being a soccer/sailing mom for her two kids, and coastal conservation.


Google Scholar Profile

Full CV (updated 01/24)



Sunderland Lab

Group Administrator: Robert Stanhope

Address: 29 Oxford Street, Cambridge MA 02138

E-mail:  stanhope [at] seas.harvard.edu