College Students Interface with Industry at National Biodiesel Conference & Expo


Students on stage during kick-off session of the conference.

In February 2012, 21 college students from across the nation, all pursuing degrees in science fields, attended the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in Orlando. They joined the event thanks to scholarships set up for members of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel, supported by the National Biodiesel Board and United Soybean Board through the soybean checkoff.

In the above video, Kyle Anderson, NBB Technical Project Manager, and Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel Mikkel VandeBergh and Bernardo del Campo talk about finding the next new breakthroughs in renewable fuels.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my whole experience,” said Vince Ciaramitaro, a chemical engineering student at the University of Kansas. “It was a very unique opportunity and I feel very lucky to have been a part of it. I learned a ton about the world of biodiesel and was able to network with many important people.”

Vince Ciaramitaro, a chemical engineering student at the University of Kansas.

Most of the students attended the technical sessions of the conference, learning about the latest research on test methods, feedstock development and quality, and other areas critical to biodiesel’s continued development.

USDA’s Michael Haas addresses students during lunch-and-learn.

With about 1,200 attendees, including many of the nation’s commercial biodiesel producers, the conference also gave the students exposure to the “real world” biodiesel industry. Events set up specifically for the student attendees included a lunch-and-learn with some of biodiesel’s leading scientists, who discussed their research with the students and shared career advice. Students also attended a Sustainability Symposium.

Karthik Gopalakrishnan with David Thornton, both of Clemson University.

“I think it is fundamental, as a research scientist, to also see how the industry relates within itself and also how it interfaces with government,” said Melissa Ingram, a biology/genetics major at New York University. “I was appreciative of gaining this new perspective on the industry.”

Melissa Ingram, a biology/genetics major at New York University, and other students at the conference.

Also for the first time, the National Biodiesel board hosted a Poster Session, allowing students to present and discuss their research.

Dharshini Balasubramaniyan, University of Nevada – Reno, with her poster.

“Attending the conference was extremely rewarding,” said Meredith Dorneker, studying natural resources at the University of Missouri. “I was able to witness the enthusiasm that everyone has for improving and advancing the biodiesel field. And most importantly, I was able to make connections with scientists, farmers, and private industry members who I may be able to collaborate with in the future.”

A biodiesel-powered chopper in the Expo Hall.

For a multimedia recap of the conference, visit the blog.