Photo of Jillian in lab smiling

Jillian Goldfarb

Associate Professor
Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
254A Olin Hall


Research in the Goldfarb group tackles critical "last mile" issues surrounding renewable fuel production from in situ catalysis during thermochemical conversion of biomass to byproduct valorization and technology-policy integration. Work spans fundamental science, where we leverage the unique properties of pseudo-equilibrium states to tune hydrothermal biofuels all the way to large-scale industry collaborations to scale up pyrolysis biofuel production. This work has led to new concepts for the integrated biorefinery, novel carbon-based electrodes and sustainable materials for water treatment applications. 

Dr. is an Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell University. She received her Ph.D. from Brown University in Chemical Engineering in 2008 and B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Northeastern University in 2004. Research in the Goldfarb group tackles critical "last mile" issues surrounding renewable fuel production from in situ catalysis during thermochemical conversion of biomass to byproduct valorization and technology-policy integration. Work spans fundamental science all the way to large-scale industry collaborations to scale up pyrolysis biofuel production. Her novel concepts for the integrated biorefinery go beyond converting biomass to biofuels. They also produce their own biofuel upgrading and pollution prevention materials by utilizing carbonaceous and heterogeneous organic-inorganic residues remaining after thermochemical conversions.  

Her NSF CAREER Award pushed her biorefinery work into the area of Hydrothermal Liquefaction (HTL). One of the advantages of HTL over other biomass conversion techniques is the direct treatment of wet wastes without an energy-intensive pre-drying step.  To date, the majority of HTL research explores the impact of process conditions on products produced from a range of feedstocks. However, this approach cannot overcome the primary challenges to widespread application of HTL for biofuels, namely that (1) we cannot accurately control or predict product distributions, which subsequently requires significant downstream upgrading of the biocrude, and (2) the resulting process water requires considerable treatment, making large scale HTL economically infeasible. Controlling hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) requires us to treat it not as a series of reactions, but rather as a reactive process by which we form supersaturated solutions of aqueous-organic mixtures and a separate organic biocrude. Taking a fundamental thermodynamic approach to HTL and product recovery could accelerate our transition to a renewable energy future by facilitating the design of more efficient and selective HTL processes.  

Beyond the biorefinery, Prof. Goldfarb tackles the design of sustainable materials for water treatment and other environmental applications using computational modeling integrated with experimental fabrication and characterization. She and her collaborators developed and validated a new framework on heterogeneous hierarchical porous media for point-of-use water treatment. Using greener fabrication methods (solvent recycling loops, bio-templating and low-temperature processes) we are designing polymer foam scaffolds with high light penetration and water permeability into which we embed photocatalytically active nanocomposites for the destruction of organic pollutants in water.  

Prof. Goldfarb is committed to furthering scientists’ efforts toward public communication and research translation. Outside of the lab, she studies the public’s understanding and willingness to adopt sustainable energy solutions and explores the factors that increase or decrease the public’s willingness to accept a given technology, a critical component driving policy-making. Her work on public understanding of COVID-19 vaccination has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and was discussed by Dr. Fauci at a White House Press Briefing. 

Prof. Goldfarb’s strong commitment to pedagogical innovation has led to the publication of multiple peer-reviewed articles on new classroom and laboratory activities to engage students in sustainable materials for environmental applications. Outside of the classroom, Prof. Goldfarb has a keen interest in engineering assessment. She translated her knowledge into practice as the co-chair of the Cornell College of Engineering Assessment Committee, and Lead of the 2022 ABET Review Cycle Assessment Reform. Under her leadership, all COE programs were reaccredited during the 2022-2023 visit cycle, and we have laid a foundation of continuing improvement that continues. 

Prof Goldfarb holds multiple leadership roles in the profession where she facilitates trans- and interdisciplinary collaborations around environmental, energy and sustainability topics, creates opportunities to showcase researchers from around the world, and seeks to shape science policy. She served as Fall National Meeting Program Chair of the Division of Environmental Chemistry (ENVR) of the American Chemical Society for four years, is currently a Councilor for the Division, and is serving a second term as a member of the ACS Committee on Environmental Improvement. She co-chaired the 2021 ACS Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference and was co-chair of the 2022 Fall National ACS Meeting. Prof. Goldfarb is an outspoken advocate for women in science and engineering and actively engages aspiring graduate students from under-represented groups through her LinkedIn presence. Prof. Goldfarb is Principal Editor (Americas) of the journal Fuel. She is recipient of a 2022 National Science Foundation CAREER Award, a 2019 IUPAC Young Observer Award, 2017 ACS Green Chemistry Institute GreenX: Rising Star Award and was a 2017 Fulbright Scholar in Italy. She is also a Fellow of the American Chemical Society.  

Research Interests

Energy and the Environment


Energy Systems

Sustainable Energy Systems

Energy, Mineral, and Water Resources

Environmental Processes

Heat and Mass Transfer

Materials Design

Polymers and Soft Matter

Colloids and Interfacial Science

COVID-19 Related Research

Engineering Education

Research Group Members

Teaching Interests

Prof. Goldfarb has taught the following courses: 

Undergraduate Core Courses: Introduction to Chemical Engineering (Mass & Energy Balances); Engineering Processes for Environmental Sustainability; Introduction to Materials Science & Engineering; Separations Processes; Heat Transfer; Heat & Mass Transfer; Thermodynamics 

Undergraduate Elective Courses: Air Pollution: Its Origin and Control; Fossil Fuels and Renewable Energies; Public Facing Science: Design, Analysis and Communication; Investigating the Reappearance of Lead at Ithaca Gun Superfund Site 

Graduate Core Courses: Advanced Thermodynamics Graduate Elective Courses: Biomass & Bioenergy; Teaching Practicum; Engineering Effective Technical Communication 

Selected Publications

Hubble, A.H., B.A. Childs, M. Pecchi, H. Sudibyo, J.W. Tester, J.L. Goldfarb “Role of in situ (in contact with biomass) and ex situ (in contact with pyrolysis vapors) transition metal catalysts on pyrolysis of cherry pits.” Fuel. 2023,352, 129062.

Pecchi, M., M. Baratieri, A.R. Maag, J.L. Goldfarb. “Uncovering the transition between hydrothermal carbonization and liquefaction via secondary char extraction: A case study using food waste.” Waste Management. 2023, 168, 281-289.

Adair, J.L., M. Karod, J.L. Goldfarb. “Addition of in situ clay catalysts at different process points in a cascaded hydrothermal carbonization-pyrolysis process for agro-industrial waste valorization” Bioresource Technology; 2023, 372, 128649.

Kassem, N., M. Pecchi, A.R. Maag, M. Baratieri, J.W. Tester, J.L. Goldfarb. “Developing Decision-Making Tools for Food Waste Management via Spatially Explicit Integration of Experimental Hydrothermal Carbonization Data and Computational Models using New York as a Case Study.” ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering. 2022. 10, 16578-16587.

Pollard, Z., A. Cannon, E. Ryan, J.L. Goldfarb. “Capturing the Effects of Particle Heterogeneity on Adsorption in a Fixed Bed.” AIChE Journal. 2022, e17618. Cover Article, Featured in CEP.

Hubble, A.H., E.M. Ryan, J.L. Goldfarb. “Enhancing pyrolysis gas and bio-oil formation through transition metals as in situ catalysts.” Fuel, 2022, 308, 121900

Ma, Q., K. Wang, H. Sudibyo, J.W. Tester, G. Huang, L. Han, J.L. Goldfarb. “Production of Upgraded Biocrude from Hydrothermal Liquefaction using Clays as in situ Catalysts.” Energy Conversion and Management. 2021, 247, 114764

Goldfarb, J.L., S.E. Kreps, J.S. Brownstein, D.L. Kriner. “Beyond the First Dose – Covid-19 Vaccine Follow-through and Continued Protective Measures.” New England Journal of Medicine. 2021, 385, 101-103 Discussed by Dr. Anthony Fauci at White House Press Briefing 

Goldfarb, J.L. and D.L. Kriner. “U.S. Public Support for Biofuels Tax Credits: Cost Frames, Local Fuel Prices, and the Moderating Influence of Partisanship.” Energy Policy. 2021, 149, 112098 

Selected Awards and Honors

2023 Fellow of the American Chemical Society (ACS) 

2022 U.S. National Academies of Science Delegate to 1st U.S.-Africa Frontiers of Science Symposium 

2022 National Science Foundation CAREER Award 

2022 Visiting Professor of Excellence, University of Trento, Italy 

2019 International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) Young Observer 

2017 Fulbright Scholar, Research and Teaching at the University of Trento, Italy  

2017 American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute GreenX: Rising Star Award 

2014 ACS Younger Chemists Committee Leadership Development Award

Cornell University College of Engineering James and Mary Tien Excellence in Teaching Award 

2015 Boston University Center for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching Course Innovation Award 

2014 ACS Project SEED Grant to Mentor High School Students 



Brown University, Providence, RI, Chemical Engineering, 2008 


Brown University, Providence, RI, Engineering, 2005 


Northeastern University, Boston, MA, Chemical Engineering,  2004 


Research Group Members

Graduate Students

  • Paola Giammattei
    Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering