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Elizabeth Hénaff

In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys being outdoors and making art!

Elizabeth Hénaff, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering and a former  Postdoctoral Researcher at Weill Cornell Medical College. Elizabeth grew up in France, pursued her undergraduate degree in Austin, Texas (her birthplace), and ultimately earned her PhD in Barcelona, Spain. 

Elizabeth has made contributions to understanding how plants respond to the force of gravity, how plant genome structure changes in response to stress, and most recently has turned her attention to the ubiquitous and invisible microbial component of our environment. Her interests in biological interactions and beautiful Big Data visualizations have inspired her to create interactive installations, collaborating with artists and musicians.

What is your favorite thing about being a scientist?

“I feel privileged that my position in society is to figure out the unknowns of the world around us. I have always been fascinated by figuring out how things work, and living systems are the most fascinating of all.”

Elizabeth holding one of several modular concrete blocks designed to act like sea sponges or corals: nature’s aquatic bioreactors.

If you could give one piece of advice to young scientists or students, what would it be?

“Choose a topic that is interesting to you, not necessarily the most fashionable or recent. You have a life time to think about this topic.”

Previously, Elizabeth developed a project that investigated the microbiome of toxic superfund site, The Gowanus Canal. Prior to the 2016 USEPA Superfund Cleanup, her team at BK Bio Reactor sampled 14 locations along the canal, and isolated multiple organisms, many of which were found to biologically process and degrade toxic chemicals. Learn more about this fascinating bioremediation project, a collaboration between Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape ArchitectsGenSpace, the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, and Landscape Metrics, at

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