Profile: Katie Heil

University of Colorado – Boulder
Electrical Engineering (Undergrad)

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Biodiesel isn’t all science and biomass. Katharine Heil knows that there is a lot more to biodiesel than what is done in the lab, although she knows about that too.

In high school, Heil’s interest in alternative fuels was sparked when her physics class decided to create their own batch of biodiesel.

Now pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering at the University of Colorado – Boulder, Heil is the Executive Director of the CU Biodiesel club. The club is one of the larger and more established campus biodiesel organizations, and has a biodiesel-producing trailer named ESTER, which hosts campus workshops and has a research component.

“Throughout this experience I have gained knowledge of not only the science behind biodiesel but also the politics and issues involved in implementing it,” Heil said. “Along with other members of the club, I have been able to educate the larger population on the increasing demand for biofuels, specifically biodiesel.”

The University of Colorado uses biodiesel to power its buses, purchasing fuel from a commercial biodiesel producer. Heil is working with the university to see if they could use biodiesel made from the dining halls’ waste cooking oil, as some other universities have done. She says a local company is working to build a plant that will produce 11.5 million gallons of biodiesel annually from used cooking oil, and has agreed to partner with CU. She’s working with the school’s dining halls and transportation services to implement a closed-loop system.

“I believe that being a co-chair will give me the opportunity to continue to spread my knowledge and experience with other young scientists,” Heil said. “Biodiesel is an emerging fuel and in order for it to continue to grow, we must continue to inform others of its importance in society today.”

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