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K-State Today Student Edition

September 13, 2012



Renewable future: Graduate students get up close look at sustainable energy production in Brazil

By Communications and Marketing

Seven Kansas State University graduate students in engineering or agriculture-related fields visited Brazil from Aug. 4-11 as part of the university's Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship, or IGERT, program.

The focus of the trip was the Brazilian sugarcane industry, specifically on how ethanol is made from sugarcane.

The National Science Foundation's Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program is offered at more than 100 universities across the country. It is designed to provide interdisciplinary graduate training for students who wish to pursue careers in the sciences, mathematics, engineering or technology. Kansas State University's program trains doctoral students in developing the technology and policies needed for sustainable biorefining.

The group was led by Richard Nelson, coordinator of the university's Center for Sustainable Energy.

The students got an inside look at how sugarcane is grown, harvested, transported from the fields to the processing plants to be made into ethanol and sugar. Additionally, they saw how the waste product from sugarcane processing, bagasse, is used to generate electricity on-site for use by the processing plants. They also visited the Brazilian Bioethanol Science and Technology Laboratory to see advanced scientific and research work being done on sugarcane for Brazil's ethanol industry.

According to Probst, the students' learning experiences were not confined to academic activities.

"The trip was an eye-opening experience for all the IGERT students," he said. "We were able to ingrain ourselves in the Brazilian culture: tasting new foods, interacting with the locals and understanding the Brazilian way of life."

More information on the IGERT program at the university is available at http://igert.ksu.edu/.

Students who participated in the trip to Brazil include:

Andrew McGowan, doctoral student in agronomy, Prairie Village; and Leslie Schulte, doctoral student in chemical engineering, Wichita.

From out of state:

John Stanford, doctoral student in chemical engineering, Council Bluffs, Iowa; Anne Rigdon, doctoral student in grain science, Dunkerton, Iowa; Liz Boyer, doctoral student in chemical engineering, Marengo, Ill.; Kyle Probst, doctoral student in grain science, Bloomington, Ind.; and Oliver Freeman, doctoral student in agronomy, Johns Island, S.C.