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Mas BioEnergy

MAS BioEnergy Scholars

2008 Scholars

Sam EvansSam Evans
I feel that I am well positioned to make a useful contribution to this initiative given my strong foundation in economic analysis as well as my professional experience in Washington D.C. working on energy and environmental policy. My research interests include future energy policy and the challenges that both the public and private sectors face given regulatory and political uncertainty. As environmental concerns provide incentives to explore new energy resources, such as biofuels, we must understand the costs, benefits, and tradeoffs in developing these resources and how we can design policies to make such transitions as efficiently as possible. Economists should play an integral role in conducting life-cycle analyses for the various biofuel technologies and in evaluating these outcomes to determine the socially optimal allocation of resources in this emerging industry. It is clear that the industry and society will face economic challenges moving forward, such as: uncertainty regarding the price of oil and other biofuel substitutes, land-use allocation and its implications for the fuel-food tradeoff, and the impact of environmental externalities (such as greenhouse gas emissions) which may help or hinder the growth of the biofuel industry. All of these factors will be important for each individual biofuel feedstock, and it is essential that as biofuel technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, social scientists (and especially economists) evaluate the social implications of these fuel-switching decisions. Although economic analysis is a necessary component in achieving this goal, it will require a basic understanding of the scientific processes in biofuel production and refinement.

John Field John Field
I believe the twin issues of energy security and global climate change are the paramount engineering challenges of our day and biofuels can play a central role in advancing energy sustainability in both the developed and developing world.  My research focuses on improving lifecycle assessment (LCA) methods to evaluate the sustainability of specific biofuel supply chains on a spatially-explicit basis.  In particular, we are developing LCA tools that integrate soil biogeochemical process models with estimates of energy use and air pollutant emissions from feedstock cultivation, transport, and processing in order to identify production schemes that minimize trace gas emissions and maximize carbon sequestration in soil organic matter, all on a site-specific basis.  I am also interested in the assessment of thermochemical energy conversion systems in developing countries, particularly with regard to the benefits of using the carbon-rich biochar co-product as a soil amendment to improve crop yields or reduce agronomic inputs.  My training is in Mechanical Engineering, though I am fortunate to be working closely with ecologists, soil scientists, and economists in a highly interdisciplinary and intellectually stimulating environment here at CSU thanks to the MASB program.

Margaret Fleming Margaret Fleming
In the MAS BioEnergy IGERT program I could pursue my primary interest (broadly, the biochemical processes involved in photosynthesis) along with exploring its potential connections in a range of other disciplines such as chemical engineering or economics. My undergraduate education was broad; I am interested in maintaining that breadth in the service of a focused research effort. For me, a major appeal for me of the MAS BioEnergy program is its collaborative and interdisciplinary aspect. The particular combination of disciplines is appealing also, as it would allow me to pursue "pure science" in the context of human social endeavors, the "applied science" side, i.e. fuel production and refining, and economic and policy issues related to the application. This combination of pure and applied science is attractive because it is another way of maintaining breadth. I would acquire the skills and relevant knowledge to develop projects with applications in mind, and would know how to collaborate with colleagues in other disciplines to make those applications happen.

David McKenna David McKenna
As an engineer, I have always wanted to be at the forefront of technology in whatever field I was involved in. The current trend of increasing interest in alternative fuels, global warming and reducing emissions has brought to my attention that I am already involved in one of the most rapidly changing and growing fields in engineering, and I highly doubt that we will see a decrease in interest in biofuels and emissions anytime in the near future. I believe that in order to make any headway in this field, researchers need to have a broad knowledge of the fuels being produced, the feedstocks from which they come, the process of refining the biomass into usable fuel, and the effects of actually using these fuels in real world applications.

Paul Tanger Paul Tanger
As the energy crisis surfaces as a major obstacle to the future of the world economies, it presents an opportunity for scientists, engineers, economists and others to leverage their diverse backgrounds and offer viable long term solutions. At the same time, we are seeing conclusive evidence that climate change is an issue that must be addressed immediately. With the proper tools, I believe the next generation of researchers can solve these problems simultaneously. I have always wanted to be a force for change in how we obtain our energy, and how our decisions impact the environment. From the my personal choices, such as riding my bike to work, to initiatives I have been involved with, such as replacing Styrofoam cups and plastic silverware with starch based products in my office, I continue to work towards sustainable living. I am truly excited to find a program that aligns with my philosophy so well, and I know it will provide me the tools to fulfill my goals.

2009 Scholars

Steve Albers Steve Albers
As a high school teacher for the past 5 years, I was fortunate enough to learn about and understand the true value of building a strong and capable foundation for any endeavor. Our world population continues to rise, and mankind’s need for energy of every type continues to increase. Because of this, it is evident that we will have to find alternatives to our current methods of energy generation, and biofuels will play a large role in attaining this goal. My personal targets as a part of the MAS BioEnergy program here at CSU are to: 1. Organize and comprehend the main basic tenants of the biofuel field, 2. Contribute to a durable solution to the biofuel field through modification of microorganisms utilizing the processes of metabolic engineering and synthetic biology, and 3. Participate in generating a durable American biofuel industry focused on best-fit practices. As part of any emerging field like the biofuels industry, many hurdles must be passed to generate products that are truly sustainable. New and novel ways of thinking about the organisms we use as cropping systems, the types of energy molecules generated by these organisms, and the way these organisms utilize the resources around us must be focused on to tackle this extensive problem. I believe I have a comprehensive understanding of the biofuel industry that will only grow through my participation in this program.

Jenna Bloxom Jenna Bloxom
While technological and scientific breakthroughs are critical parts of the future of bioenergy, comprehensive and pragmatic policies are equally essential in realizing the global environmental potential of biofuels. With a B.A. in Political Science and Spanish from Wake Forest University and a M.A. from the University of Arizona in Latin American Studies along with policy research experience around the western hemisphere including the United States, Mexico, Argentina, and Honduras, I wish to use my background and training concerning international development and environmental policy to explore sustainable biomass and biofuel production specifically considering the water and bioenergy paradox. My specific research interests include African palm oil and biodiesel production in Central America with regards to transboundary water management and rights as well as algae biomass and biofuel generation involving anticipatory water usage and policies, a project which was recently supported by the federally funded Water Resources Research Center in the state of Arizona. Pursuing a PhD in Political Science, I will continue to work on policy analysis and assessment of biodiesel and water issues while broadening my horizon in all aspects of the bioenergy industry through the MAS BioEnergy IGERT program.

Barbara Fricks Barbara Fricks
Climate change is a critical problem facing our nation. As an intern working in Washington DC on soils policy, I became familiar with the biofuels debate, specifically the importance of pursing a sustainable biofuels program that does not adversely affect the environment. I am interested in the ability of biofuel research to capitalize on plant biomass for energy with an emphasis on lignocellulosic biomass from perennial grassland ecosystems. Grasses have the potential to stabilize soil with extensive rooting structure and require minimal fertilizers when compared to first generation feedstocks. I am particularly interested in the fundamental question of C turnover. The goal of my research will be to explore the process of lignocellulosic decomposition in native grassland soils. My background in policy and soils makes me an asset to the program, and I look forward to working in an interdisciplinary environment to solve a critical global program.

Torben Grumstrup Torben "Stryker" Grumstrup
My engineering education began in windy Laramie at the University of Wyoming where I discovered an appreciation of fluid mechanics. I continued my studies at Penn State University and learned to build various styles of schlieren and shadowgraph optical systems in order to, among other things, create high-speed movies of propagating shock waves. Shortly after graduating from Penn State with a M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering, I was hired as a staff engineer at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, IL. My efforts there were roughly split between thermo-mechanical computer modeling and design work in support of the particle collider and neutrino physics research missions. I am presently pursuing a Ph.D degree in Mechanical Engineering from CSU while studying the formation of nitrogen oxide pollutants by conducting basic combustion experiments on biologically-derived diesel fuels. I believe we are obligated to seek ways of becoming better stewards of our planet, especially since it is at present the only home we have. Biologically-derived fuels are the most sensible option to move beyond carbon-producing petroleum transportation fuels. Photosynthesis has been occurring on our planet for more than two billion years so it is natural to rely on this ancient biochemical process to produce the fuel we need because it has already been optimized over eons of evolutionary trial and error. While biologically-derived fuels certainly have appealing traits, not the least of which is apparent net carbon production of zero, it is important to thoroughly understand unfavorable aspects of using these fuels before committing to widespread implementation. My research on pollutant formation will part of this effort.

Alex Stanton Alex Stanton
I received my undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from West Virginia University. It was during my first few years at WVU that I became acutely aware of the energy crisis facing our world as well as the global environmental impacts of our current energy production methods. While at WVU, I applied my interest in bioenergy by helping to start the WVU Biodiesel Project, which is a student-run organization with the goal of producing biodiesel for the school’s bus system from the waste vegetable oil produced on campus. The summer after my junior year, I participated in a research internship with the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels. During the internship, I worked at Colorado State University in the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory under Dr. Anthony Marchese modelling biodiesel combustion and analyzing the mechanisms for pollutant formation. My bioenergy interests are quite broad and span many traditional fields of study. I hope that through the MAS BioEnergy IGERT program, I will be able to fully indulge my curiosities and develop a research project that is diverse and unique within my studies in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department.

Scott Fulbright Scott Fulbright
I first discovered my passion and profound interest in studying algae as an undergraduate at Michigan State University, where I began working as a research assistant in an Algal Ecology Laboratory. Upon completing my undergraduate studies, I have since worked with several biofuel organizations specializing in research and development of algal cultivation. I have come to appreciate the complex problems and multidisciplinary approach necessary to breakdown technical, political, and economic barriers associated with industrial scale biofuel production. Multidisciplinary approaches will be key in building a sustainable, robust biofuels industry. The MAS BioEnergy Program allows me the opportunity to develop a well-rounded biofuels foundation while focusing my research on technical challenges pertaining to large-scale algal cultivation. Specifically, I will focus on understanding community dynamics at the molecular level to enhance cultivation strategies.

2010 Scholars

Alicia Able Alicia Able
I am a graduate of the University of Florida with a B.S. in Botany and a minor in Plant Molecular & Cellular Biology. Doing research as an undergraduate made me realize the importance of using small-scale science to address macroscopic real world problems. This idea led to the start of my career in the cellulosic ethanol industry where I worked with metabolically engineered strains of bacteria capable of fermenting all major lignocellulosic biomass sugars to fuel ethanol. Working in corporate biofuels R&D made me acutely aware of the challenges facing that process as well as many other competing technologies. While pursuing a graduate degree within the MASB IGERT Fellowship, I plan to broaden my knowledge of the technological challenges of creating economical and robust alternatives to petroleum-based fuels. Specifically, I am interested in the use of microbes, including yeast and bacteria, for the production of biofuels and other commodity chemicals from sustainable feedstocks such as agricultural and forest residues and industrial waste streams from paper/wood industries. In addition, I am interested in the use of algae, especially cyanobacteria, for the production of higher chain alcohols and other chemicals. I am excited about the prospect of conducting research using modification techniques that can be applied to all these diverse microorganisms. Ultimately, my goal is to help bring these innovative technologies to a commercial reality. Finding alternative sources of energy is one of the most important issues facing this generation and will be for generation to come. It is such a privilege to be a part of this unique multidisciplinary program, which provides the opportunity to work with experts in various fields all working together towards a sustainable energy future.

Marc Baumgardner Marc Baumgardner
I received my undergraduate degrees in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering from West Georgia and Georgia Tech, respectively, back in 2005. For the next five years, I worked for UOP, a company that designs and licenses technology, primarily, for the refining and petrochemical industries. While with UOP I got the opportunity to work in and with many different refineries across the world. I also gained some really great insight on the current and future state of the refining industry. It was also during this time that I started to gain an increasing interest in discovering what alternatives there might be to petroleum. I decided to come here to Colorado State because of the University’s over-arching focus and goal of not only advancing the knowledge of bioenergy, but also of really getting results and making immediate impacts in society for the better. I believe that my varied education and industry experience allow me to bring a unique perspective to both the Mechanical Engineering department and the MAS BioEnergy program here at CSU. As part of the MAS BioEnergy IGERT program, I will gain a better understanding of varied aspects of what it means to effect a change in the way our country and this world relies on petroleum. I believe that it will only be with a variety of approaches and solutions, such as is brought together among the MAS BioEnergy IGERT Scholars, that we will achieve this objective.

Nell Campbell Nell Campbell
I believe that biofuels are going to be an increasingly important field in upcoming years, as concerns with global climate change and fuel security grow. I received my undergraduate degree in ecology from Dartmouth College, but it was while completing a Masters in Natural Resources at University of Vermont that I developed an interest in the environmental impact of biofuels. While completing my Masters thesis, I learned to apply life cycle assessment (LCA) methods to assess the greenhouse gas impact of small-scale oilseed-based biodiesel production. During this work, and continuing with it as a consultant the following year, I realized the importance of complete environmental, economic, and energy impact assessments to better direct biofuel development. There is an exciting, even daunting variety in biofuel feedstocks, production and processing methods, and end uses. Approaches such as LCA can help evaluate the biofuel production system as a whole, in order to help identify developmental directions with the greatest potential. I am hoping that the multidisciplinary approach and collaborative emphasis of the MAS BioEnergy program will help me develop a better whole-system approach to assessing biofuel production and use. My research focus will be on furthering biofuel assessments using such methods as LCA, particularly as it pertains to the ecological impacts of feedstock production (eg, soil dynamics, water and nutrient use, etc).

Jeremy Chignell Jeremy Chignell
The complexity of living systems affords them emergent properties of efficiency, self-regulation, and resiliency that can offer creative approaches to problem-solving that may be unavailable or cost-prohibitive through abiotic means. One such system is that of mixed microbial communities, a new horizon for the integration of microbial ecology, systems biology, and biochemical engineering. While the power and versatility of microbial communities promise many opportunities for an emerging bioenergy economy, the metabolic and physiological details of this system remain largely unstudied. I’m interested in the integration of metaproteomics, metagenomics, metabolic microbial ecology, and bioinformatics to provide insights into the structure and function of microbial communities that will allow for their predictive control in the service of energy production. Optimizing microbial communities for energy production is an engineering problem: during my M.S. I became interested in the communities of microbial fuel cells, an emerging technology that simultaneously treats wastewater and produces energy. In the MAS Bioenergy program at CSU, I will investigate and optimize this community and other communities relevant for energy production by the creative application of exciting and powerful molecular and informatics tools.

Esteban Hincapie Esteban Hincapie
With a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the National University of Colombia and four years of experience in the Latin American power generation industry, I decided to continue my education in energy, specifically in biofuels. I pursued a M.S. in Engineering at Ohio University developing and designing photobioreactors for algal production and then joined the Ph.D./MASB program at Colorado State University. In this stage, I am looking specifically to work with algal biofuels because I believe that microcrops-based derived biofuels is a promising field that will continue growing due to several future energy challenges. I have had the opportunity to know the advantages of microalgae in terms of increased oil yield and co-production of biocompounds. Additionally, many countries in Central and South America have good conditions for algal farms in terms of solar light intensities and warm temperatures. However, algal biofuels is still a developing technology with significant biological, political, and engineering challenges. The deployment in the near future of full scale algal oil production facilities will also require a multidisciplinary approach including the Mechanical Engineering discipline. I strongly believe the MASB IGERT program will provide me with the necessary tools to face such challenges and contribute to bring the algae alternative to industrial production.

Jeff Kent Jeff Kent
My educational background is in biology and chemistry, with a particular focus on molecular-level processes and genetics. After getting my bachelor's degree from the University of South Carolina, I went on to a PhD program in quantitative human genetics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. During that time I was excited by the rapid advances made possible by high-quality genetic sequencing technology. My training in analytical genetic methods showed me the power of this information for detecting biological phenomena like stratification, disease etiology, and selection. At the same time, my growing awareness of world trends in population growth, consumption, and international politics gave me a strong desire to be an active part of a solution. In my current role as a MAS BioEnergy scholar, I have just such an opportunity. I am positioned at the interface of agriculture and ecology, working to develop cellulosic biofuel feedstocks that will maximize biomass production while minimizing negative impacts on surrounding ecosystems. As I’ve read more widely in ecology and evolution, I’ve come to a fuller appreciation of the naturalist John Muir’s adage that “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything in the universe.” Admittedly, his is a bold thesis. But with reference to biological ecosystems in their natural environmental contexts, I believe good scientific evidence points in that direction. And as the resource demands of civilization grow and press against the limits of conventionally sustainable supplies, societies seem to find themselves increasingly “hitched” to natural systems. I believe innovative technologies like bioenergy offer the best prospect for preserving the unhindered function both of human societies and natural systems, and so I consider it a privilege to be trained and to work at the leading edge of such a vibrant new field.

Greta Lohman Greta Lohman
My primary interest in bioenergy stems from my background in soil science, particularly the interaction between soils, biofuels, and carbon sequestration. However I am also interested in the affects of biofuel production on national and global food security as well as the corresponding changes in supply and demand of other natural resources. The MAS BioEnergy program provides the means to incorporate many of these interests into one degree, and I hope that my training in environmental science, soil science, and economics will provide the tools to delve into the local, national, and global concerns over climate change, energy and food production, and resource availability.

Phoenix Mourning-Star Phoenix Mourning-Star
My background is in Mathematics (BS), Biostatistics (MS) and Public Health/Environmental Epidemiology (MS) while my PhD research is currently through the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology and the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory. I came to the MAS BioEnergy program from studying Law at the University of Auckland, New Zealand where I focused on human rights in international environmental law. I feel that the work which needs to be done in balancing human rights to water, food, and a clean environment are becoming a major scientific and political cross-roads both nationally and globally. My passion is in addressing these challenges in how bioenergy may be able to play a role in elucidating how the shared demands on resources can be navigated through an active interplay between science and policy legislation.

Rashad Reed Rashad Reed
Bioenergy in America reduces our dependence on the limited supply of fossil fuels that we have available and also reduces our dependence on foreign countries’ fossil fuels that are not as readily available domestically. Though politics, multi-national corporations and public perception all play a role in the success or failure of supplanting bioenergy as the primary energy source in America, as a scientist, an IGERT scholar, and a PhD candidate, it is my honor to work in a multidisciplinary program that is helping to shape the science behind bioenergy. I entered Colorado State University with a Masters in Plant Science and a Bachelors degree in Biology with previous research experience with Muscadine and European grapes’ defense-related genes. In reference to bioenergy, genetic engineering of sustainable food crops for biofuel from post-harvest biomass is one of my research interests. Increasing the efficiency rate and amount of lipid and carbohydrate production through genetic engineering is another interest of mine. I look forward to working with chemical and mechanical engineers, economists and political sociologists through my rotations to learn how each field impacts bioenergy.

Justin Sweeley Justin Sweeley
The growing population and industrialization of the world is creating complex problems in the world’s modern energy structure. The solution is going to require interdisciplinary understanding of many fields, which have historically remained independently isolated. I am excited to join the IGERT MASB program at Colorado State University because of its drive to bridge the gap between each integral field involved in the current bioenergy crisis facing the planet. I believe that the long-term projected global energy demands will require a dramatic shift from current energy technologies. Today we are presented with a unique opportunity to help develop sustainable and cost effective solutions with an aim to alleviate the current problems while planning ahead for the issues of tomorrow. Through the IGERT program, I look forward to gaining a strong understanding of all facets involved in bioenergy. In addition, I will have the opportunity to work with like-minded researchers who are unafraid to partake in interdisciplinary collaborations to find solutions to the multifaceted problems at hand. At CSU, I hope to combine my undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology, with my work experience as a Chemical Engineer to obtain a PhD in Chemical Engineering. My research interests fall somewhere between the two fields with particular focus on the culturing and harvesting of algal biofuels.

2011 Scholars

Mario Aguiar Mario Aguiar
I received my undergraduate degree in Microbiology from Colorado State University and my Masters from the University of Sao Paulo at ESALQ in Brazil. During my graduate education, I had the opportunity to understand in-depth the entire process of sugarcane ethanol production and all the effects of producing a biofuel in a developing country; from the economical and political viewpoint as a well as the environmental perspectives. In my work, I studied the enzymatic metabolic process of lignocellulolytic fungi cultivated in residues from the sugar-ethanol industry, such as bagasse and vinasse, where I could also study the chemical and biological treatments necessary for the improved hydrolysis in this biomass conversion. Due to the increasing global search for a sustainable biologically-derived fuel, many countries have set deadlines for creating and improving means of self-sufficient energy, and these adaptations will have a great impact in the global ecosystems. We as scholars need to focus our expertise in the development and analysis of bioenergy science. In my studies I have centered my contribution towards the utilization of microorganisms and biomass in the bioenergy industry. Currently I am very interested in the utilization of microorganisms as biomass for the production of oils, alcohols, and other chemicals. With the interdisciplinary studies in the MAS BioEnergy IGERT program, I plan to acquire knowledge and skills from all different areas involving bioenergy ranging from political, socio-economical and scientific approaches to develop a research project to aid in the improvement of renewable energy sources.

Guadalupe Aguirre Guadalupe Aguirre
I first became interested in the idea of utilizing microbes to manufacture industrial products of interest as an undergraduate Microbiology student at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). The brilliant story of Chaim Weizmann and his use of the bacterium Clostridium acetobutylium to meet the demand for acetone and butanol production during World War I ignited my passion for the applied sciences. The opportunity to work on the characterization of genes in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC6803 in the laboratory of Dr. Mike Summers strengthened my interest in pursuing a career in scientific research. A Microbial Physiology course with Dr. Larry Baresi as well as a Cell Biology Seminar with Dr. Sean Murray cemented my resolve in exploring the unlimited possibilities offered by the study and manipulation of microbial systems. Thanks to funding awarded to me by a California Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, I was also able to take part in a Summer Internship at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), in the laboratory of Dr. Susan Golden, under the supervision of Dr. Julie Bordowitz. This experience allowed me to recognize the benefits of employing photosynthetic microbes as possible sources from which to extract biofuels. As an NSF-IGERT MAS BioEnergy Fellow, I am honored and excited to have the opportunity to work with professors and scholars from a variety of academic disciplines that are as eager and committed as I am to develop tangible solutions to ameliorate the energy problems that plague both our nation and the international community at large.

Michael Barich Michael Barich
I am a true believer in the potential behind bioenergy and its central role in solving the energy needs of the future. I graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in 2009 with a Bachelors of Science in both Physics and Chemistry. In May of 2011 I earned my masters degree as part of the CSU-Pueblo IGERT MASB bridge-to-the-doctorate program working with feedlot manure and its potential use in co-firing. Now I am striving for my PhD in Physical chemistry. I am hoping that IGERT’s broader approach to the bio-energy picture will both provide me with a stronger collaborative skill set and a better understanding of my role in the larger picture.

Andrew Brandess Andrew Brandess
I have always had a very keen interest in bioenergy simply because it is one of the rare fields in which everyone can relate. As long as people need to drive, the price of fuels are a concern. After receiving my B.A. in Economics from Brandeis University, I was able to better understand how growing global demand has put a terrible strain on the petroleum markets. I was brought on as a research assistant to study for my M.S. at Colorado State University in the department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Through my studies under a U.S.D.A. AFRI-NIFA grant, I was able to comprehend many of the shortcomings of the current biofuels policies, particularly the effects of food shortages that can be caused by the mismanagement of policies relating to corn-based ethanol fuels. My master’s thesis explored the possibility of incorporating Camelina sativa, a crop in the mustard family, on farms in eastern Colorado. If successful, Camelina can eliminate as much as 90% of the on-farm diesel requirements. After working on a grant with the Governor’s Energy Office of Colorado, as well as an internship studying the possibility of incorporating bio-butanol on marginal lands in western Colorado, it is clear that I have had a very well rounded biofuel education so far. I intend to use the MAS BioEnergy IGERT PhD program as a means to propel my focus towards understanding the economics of a specific and possibly niche area of bioenergy, in order to truly become an expert in the field.

Mike Caballero Mike Caballero
It was through a variety of research experiences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that I came upon my interest in cultivating algae as a dedicated biofuel feedstock. Directed research in marine biology demonstrated the potential of harnessing natural systems. An immunology internship left me in awe of the molecular toolkit. Microbiology research fueled my passion for renewable energy with genetically engineered yeast for cellulosic ethanol fermentation. Additionally, teaching at an urban high school in Milwaukee influenced my presentation of scientific material. The MASB IGERT program values a broad understanding of biofuels, provides the potential for a profound exploration of molecular biology, and, critically, recognizes the essential need for effective interdisciplinary communication. I realized a natural fit. Through this program, I can better comprehend the econometrics of biofuel and bioproduct manufacturing alongside algae strain development, which, in turn, informs me of prudent research strategies to achieve my goal of translating algae biomass research into active commercial use.

Megan Fiddelke Megan Fiddelke
Being raised in Iowa, it is impossible to be unaware of the state’s multitude of renewable energy sources. My home state has become the leading producer of ethanol, ranks fourth in the production of biodiesel, and is second in the nation in wind generation output. The fact that Iowa ranks so highly in these areas does not come as much of a surprise to those in or out of the Midwest because of the images of windswept cornfields that come so readily to mind when picturing Iowa. What most don’t fully grasp, however, is the relationship between those windswept fields and the state’s economy, the policy and politics that are involved because of lobbyists working for farmers, ethanol producers, and fuel retailers, and the many technological achievements that are necessary for the production of these various energy sources. Far from being solely an environmental issue, energy production has become a complicated web made up of state finances, political power, scientific achievement and technological engineering - areas that are so intertwined that the seemingly simple concept of creating green energy sources has become a power struggle, the outcome of which affects farmers, businesses and politicians, as well as any person who pays taxes, fills up their gas tank, or flips any manner of electrical switch. With a B.A. and M.A. in Political Science from Iowa State University, my personal interests are focused on the politics and policy involved in bioenergy. Technology and its relationship with society has been a focal point in all of my research interests, and it has become clear that all decisions on energy sources bring together many different concerns - technological, political and economical. I believe that it is important for anyone with an interest in one of those aspects of bioenergy to have an understanding of not just how the technology operates, but also how decisions are made to bring that technology into existence and whether or not to continue it. It has become painfully clear that as a country, we are not going to have the luxury of depending on fossil fuels indefinitely, and to assume that we can rely on any one discipline to lead the way to energy independence is to commit the most egregious error that will surely lead to failure. As part of my academic pursuits, using my political science background, I am excited to be included in the cooperative effort that will bring bioenergy to the forefront of environmental policy.

Carolyn Hoagland Carolyn Hoagland
After a decade of helping businesses gain efficiencies through interactive websites, I returned to school full time to update my skills in energy analysis. A 2010 internship at the Center for Bioenergy Sustainability (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) intensified my curiosity about energy supply logistics, which applies at all scales. How do microbes alter their gene expression to use materials at hand to fuel the cycles that sustain our air, water, and agricultural soils? In an era of increasing volatility in energy price and supply, how do businesses tune their supply chain and physical plant to balance efficiency and resilience? I'm interested in all aspects of the energy analysis of biofuel production systems, including issues of soil fertility, water usage and carbon cycling. This will require connecting the dots across biology, chemistry, engineering, politics, and history in the manner of Bill Mollison, Donella Meadows and Howard Odum. The low energy density of biomass and the commodity price volatility associated with peak oil may require us to rethink all the issues surrounding economy of scale. I expect to further the definition of system boundaries and metrics of energy analysis through the construction of abstract models. I'm particularly keen to develop systems for distributed production and use of biochar and syngas in order to improve local energy security, waste management and soil fertility. My B.S. degree in Environmental Science from the University of Tennessee (Chattanooga) included coursework in ecology, math, physics, engineering, biology, chemistry, geographic information systems (GIS) and environmental law.

Trung Nguyen Trung Nguyen
I am a Fulbright scholar from Vietnam. I earned my BS in Crops Sciences at Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry and I have worked as a lecturer of Plant Biochemistry at the University since 2008. I have participated in many research projects related to draught-hardy maize variety selection, agriculture waste management, climate change mitigation and agricultural extension for uplanders and minority groups. These experiences help me to understand how research focused on an important single question fits within the broader context. The study of bioenergy enables me to combine my academic and professional experience for the highest impact. I will start by assessing the impacts of carbon sequestration processes on the reduction of the net greenhouse gas emissions by employing Life Circle Assessments (LCA) methods. Later on, I will conduct research to evaluate the changes in soil properties over the course of several seasons of growing different bioenergy crops, and then finally develop appropriate cultivation regimes for the highest economic effectiveness and soil conservation. I am so fortunate to be a participant in the MAS BioEnergy IGERT program because it has brought me a precious opportunity to be involved in collaborative research, which makes our work stronger and of a greater influence.

Janine Stone Janine Stone
In order to transition to a society built on use of biofuels and bio-based products, consumer demand for these goods must keep pace with the technologies developing them. As such, we need a better understanding of how consumers make choices regarding bioenergy. While completing my M.S. in Agricultural and Resource Economics at Colorado State University, my research posed similar questions in relation to water conservation and drought—i.e., how does the public’s perception of the drought problem influence responses to drought-related policies? As part of the MAS BioEnergy program, I’d like to focus my research around similar questions of how public perception of sustainable energy and its alternatives (the status quo, fossil fuel use) impact consumers’ responses to incentives for bioenergy use. The need for this type of economic analysis is increasing here in Colorado where development of both bioenergy and new oil/gas drilling technologies are expanding simultaneously.

Jessica Tryner Jessica Tryner
I am a graduate student in the mechanical engineering department particularly interested in the effects that developments in the bioenergy field will have on populations in the developing world. How can we mitigate the effects of resource shortages, energy shortages, climate change, and pollution on these already marginalized populations as they work to move their societies forward? How can an emerging biofuels industry provide new opportunities for economic success? I hope that my research in the field of engineering can help answer one or more of these broader questions. As a student in the mechanical engineering department, I am interested in improving our understanding of emerging bioenergy technologies from a scientific and technological perspective. Additionally, I hope that the interdisciplinary nature of the MAS BioEnergy program will also allow me to explore my interests in the broad area of development policy and better understand how social, economic, and policy issues are synthesized with scientific knowledge as we lead the way forward.

Wenlong Xu Wenlong Xu
To support the future global economy, the bioenergy industry should become an independent industrial system, similar to the modern petroleum industry. Such an industry may consist of several essential elements: feedstock production and gathering, conversion, product engineering, biological technology, evaluation and feedbacks, etc. Therefore, efforts to build up this industry are destined to be multidisciplinary and systematical. To confront these challenges, scholars should possess not only a broad knowledge base, but also academic abilities to address multidisciplinary issues. Exactly designed to meet these requirements, the IGERT MAS BioEnergy program at Colorado State University will be indispensable for me to pursue my dream in such an exciting field. With a B.S in Bioengineering from Northwest A&F University in China, I decided to further my training as a bioengineer, especially in the field of bioenergy. I would like to focus my future research on the interface between bioconversion and economics. On one hand, by combining these two subjects in my research, my research on bioconversion will be application-oriented. On the other hand, by applying economics in the bioenergy industry, a new branch of economics might be fostered; and this would help us better interpret and predict economic laws in the future bioeconomy.

2012 Scholars

Wenlong Xu Andy Abeleira
As a chemist my focus is in the field of sustainable chemistry. Sustainable chemistry is much less an actual field and much more an idea. Personally, the ideas that I feel really drive sustainable chemistry can be summed up in the following questions:
1. How can we make the field of chemistry less damaging to the environment? 2. How can we use the field of chemistry as a whole to produce new products that are renewable and biodegradable? 3. How can we use the field of chemistry to develop renewable energy technologies?
My research interests lie in the realm of question number 2. As everyone knows plastics are a ubiquitous product that permeate almost every facet of our current civilization. I see two large problems resulting from our ever-growing plastic consumption. The first problem is that a majority of plastics are produced from petroleum sources. The second problem is that a majority of those plastics produced from petroleum sources are not biodegradable. The combination of high petroleum demand and the rising concerns of the environmental effects of non-biodegradable plastics have pushed researchers to develop techniques to produce biodegradable plastics from renewable feedstocks. As a MAS BioEnergy scholar I plan on pursuing an interdisciplinary curriculum in order to gain a better understanding of the whole process behind the production of biodegradable plastics from renewable feedstocks.

Wenlong Xu Mike Angstadt
Environmental issues are uniquely multifaceted, and their study requires an appreciation of both social and natural influences. As an attorney with a long-standing interest in renewable energy and land use questions, I have been fortunate to participate in environmental law and policymaking at scales ranging from municipal government to the United Nations. At each level, the interdisciplinary nature of renewable energy and land use questions has been striking. Accordingly, I am very excited to participate in the MAS Bioenergy IGERT program, which fosters close collaboration between the social and natural sciences. As a PhD candidate in Political Science, I hope to use this broad perspective to further my studies of political, legal, and environmental influences upon local bioenergy policies.

Wenlong Xu Sarah Fulton
Bioenergy has a significant role as an agricultural product in addressing climate change and energy security, both as a source of renewable energy and a potential carbon sink. However, the environmental impacts or benefits of bioenergy were, and remain, largely misunderstood across the value chain – from production and processing to distribution and use. After working for the last four years in Washington, DC on climate change, agriculture and bioenergy policy, with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the United Nations Foundation, I understand firsthand that this has led to unclear signals from science to policy and from policy to bioenergy producers and processors with no clear path to action. I have a Bachelor of Science from Texas A&M University in Bioenvironmental Sciences and a Masters in Public Administration focused on environmental science and policy from Columbia University. I am eager to return to science with this new perspective I have gained from the policy community. I hope to develop an expertise in soil ecology that allows me to directly inform comprehensive environmental assessment of bioenergy production to inform decision making about agricultural practices, feedstock selection and future sustainability. Bioenergy has a significant role as an agricultural product in addressing climate change and energy security, both as a source of renewable energy and a potential carbon sink. However, the environmental impacts or benefits of bioenergy were, and remain, largely misunderstood across the value chain – from production and processing to distribution and use. After working for the last four years in Washington, DC on climate change, agriculture and bioenergy policy, with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the United Nations Foundation, I understand firsthand that this has led to unclear signals from science to policy and from policy to bioenergy producers and processors with no clear path to action. I have a Bachelor of Science from Texas A&M University in Bioenvironmental Sciences and a Masters in Public Administration focused on environmental science and policy from Columbia University. I am eager to return to science with this new perspective I have gained from the policy community. I hope to develop an expertise in soil ecology that allows me to directly inform comprehensive environmental assessment of bioenergy production to inform decision making about agricultural practices, feedstock selection and future sustainability.

Wenlong Xu Ann Kowalski
I am a graduate student in the Chemical and Biological Engineering department interested in improving the efficiency of bioenergy production using experimental and computational research methods. I hope to address the question of conversion from feedstock to biomass. What are the biggest challenges we face? In what way can technology play a role? How can we improve the productivity and economy of the bioenergy conversion process? Through the combination of laboratory experimentation and computational modeling, I hope to improve upon and develop new solutions to these problems. In addition, the interdisciplinary nature of the IGERT program will allow me to learn more about my other bioenergy interests. I will have the opportunity to study economics and public policy on an international scale. I can look at the results of my research from a social and political viewpoint. What are the overarching effects of the transition to bioenergy on society and the environment? Scientists and engineers must answer this kind of question in order to pursue the most useful information. Fields of study are no longer put into boxes; to contribute to the future of bioenergy, one must understand the full lifecycle of the process and the many related issues. The bioenergy IGERT program is an excellent way for me to synthesize a broad spectrum of knowledge and apply it to my particular research interest.



MAS BioEnergy
National Science Foundation

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