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K-State News
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Source: Mary Rezac, 785-532-4317, rezac@k-state.edu
Pronouncer: Rezac is Ree-zack
News tip/hometown connection: Macksville, Kan. Also for Burbank and Morgan Hills, Calif.; Littleton, Colo.; Jacksonville, Ill.; Raytown, Mo.; Bokchito, Okla.; Hollidaysburg, Pa.; and Chester, S.C.

Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011

Fueling future career paths: Students from across the nation study sustainable bioenergy through K-State summer research program

MANHATTAN -- Sustainable bioenergy is one area being studied to wean America from fossil fuels. Research in this area could be the future career of nine college students from across the country who spent their summer at Kansas State University as part of the Summer Academy in Sustainable Bioenergy.

The academy was a National Science Foundation-supported research experience for undergraduates offered through K-State's Center for Sustainable Energy. The nine students selected for the academy were chosen from a pool of more than 110 applicants.

The students spent 10 weeks immersed in an educational experience designed to produce independent researchers and potential future leaders in the areas of biomass-derived fuels and chemicals, said Mary Rezac, project director for the research experience for undergraduates and co-director of the university's Center for Sustainable Energy. She also is K-State's ConocoPhillips professor of sustainable energy and a professor of chemical engineering.

"Through various projects, students gained knowledge of one aspect of alternative energy and acquired some of the skills necessary to conduct meaningful research in sustainable bioenergy," Rezac said. "The heart of this program is to engage undergraduates in multidisciplinary research projects related to sustainable energy."

In addition to working on research under the direction of Center for Sustainable Energy faculty mentors, students attended advanced research seminars in socioeconomic, agricultural and technological issues associated with sustainable bioenergy production. The program also included development of websites and presentation skills, both fundamental aptitudes significant for today's researchers.

During field trips students interacted with local producers and citizens to observe agricultural and biofuels production, including two family farms in Kansas and one in Iowa. Two grain-based ethanol production facilities, Kansas Ethanol in Lyons, Kan., and ICM, St. Joseph, Mo., were part of the field trip itinerary, as well as AGCO, an agriculture equipment manufacturing facility in Hesston, Kan.

The academy culminated in a poster presentation. Students’ websites documenting their summer research experiences can be found at http://sustainable-energy.ksu.edu/webpages.

"It's a great feeling to know something you did could potentially help other researchers in the future," said Collin Craige, Bokchito, Okla., a student at Oklahoma State University

Also selected for K-State's Summer Academy in Sustainable Bioenergy research experience for undergraduates were:

Bethany Vosburgh, Macksville, a senior at K-State in food science and industry and in bakery science and management.

From out of state:

Andrew Joe, Burbank, Calif., a student at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology; James Inouye, Morgan Hills, Calif., a student at Seattle Pacific University; Jennifer Markham, Littleton, Colo., a student at Colorado State University; Brian Peterson, Jacksonville, Ill., a student at Missouri University of Science and Technology; Evan Davis, Raytown, Mo., a student at Missouri University of Science and Technology; Megan Smithmyer, Hollidaysburg, Pa., a student at North Carolina State University; and Dwayne Sanders, Chester, S.C., a student at Virginia State University.

Applications will soon be available for the 2012 REU Academy in Bioenergy. For more information, go to http://sustainable-energy.ksu.edu/REU.