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Future Biodiesel Leaders Bring Innovative Research to Premiere Industry Event

Jan 23, 2014
NBB’s student program showcases the future of renewable energy

San Diego, Ca. – A record number of students from across the country participated in the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo as part of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel (NGSB) program. The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) program has led to increased communication and collaboration between the biodiesel industry and universities involved in biodiesel research.

“By engaging with student scientists, our industry has not only learned about their upcoming research, but has opened new lines of communication with their professors and university researchers as well,” said Don Scott, NBB’s director of sustainability. “Student scientists who participated this year are passionate, energetic and innovative. It’s exciting to learn about their research that could truly impact the growth of our industry, but disturbing to realize these future jobs may be in jeopardy if the Administration’s short-sighted 2014 biodiesel volume proposal goes into effect.”

University of Cincinnati students Qingshi Tu, a Ph.D. student in Environmental Engineering, and Ron Gillespie, an undergraduate student studying industrial management, presented their research on brown grease biodiesel. They are founders of a student-led start-up that is working to produce biodiesel feedstock from fats, oils and greases found in the municipal wastewater system (click here to watch a video about this work).

In 2010, NBB launched the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel program that aims to educate and collaborate with young scientists. The United Soybean Board has supported the program since its inception. NBB established a scholarship program for members to attend NBB’s annual conference. Each year since, NGSB students have had an increasing role in conference.

The conference wrapped up today and some of the student-related highlights included:

  • A new conference session focused solely on university biodiesel research. Seven students presented their research during the session.
  • A networking luncheon that brought together students and scientists working in the field today to collaborate and network.
  • A poster session on the tradeshow floor where some students presented their biodiesel-related research to conference attendees.

This year, 36 students from 18 universities attended the conference and 18 of them received scholarships funded by state soybean organizations and the United Soybean Board. One of those students, Rhesa Ledbetter, a Ph.D. student in Biochemistry at Utah State University, said she discovered her passion for science during high school.

“I first remember garnering a passion for science in high school chemistry, when I found myself in a classroom full of girls with not a single boy, except the teacher,” Ledbetter said. “My teacher was a complete science geek, but through his enthusiasm and excitement I realized science is not just for nerdy boys, as my flawed logic thought. It is for anyone.”

Ledbetter said attending the conference was a way to “share my research and gain new perspectives to broaden my understanding of the field.”

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For more information and to register, visit biodieselconference.org.