Student Scientists Working to Support Biodiesel

Student scientists from Dartmouth College to Oregon State University are leading a new Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel initiative. The group has formed to demonstrate and grow support for biodiesel among tomorrow’s scientific leaders.

Lucas Ellis of Dartmouth, pursuing his Master of Science in Biochemical Engineering, is one of four co-chairs of the effort.

“In college there is an eagerness to become an advocate or have a cause, and mine was the environment, science and educating others about sustainability,” Ellis said. “Biodiesel combined all of those and became my passion.”

Since then, his passion has led him to create biodiesel education projects in three states, including organizing laboratories to teach students about the chemistry of biodiesel.

At West Virginia University, he created a biodiesel organization that today hosts biodiesel events to help recruit kids into studying science.

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Ellis is just one of many such stories of student engagement. Selected by the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), the other co-chairs of Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel are:

  • Bernardo del Campo, Iowa State University (Biorenewable Resources and Technologies)
  • Mikkel Leslie, Oregon State University (Environmental Engineering)
  • Jason Strull, University of Nevada – Reno (Material Sciences and Chemical Engineering)

The campaign launched Monday (August 30) with 28 founding members signing an on-line declaration of support for biodiesel, which in part proclaims:

Biodiesel from a variety of feedstocks can meet contemporary needs for environmental stewardship, economic prosperity, and quality of life without compromising the ability of future generations to meet these needs for themselves.

“Biodiesel can certainly make an impact on the world,” said ISU’s del Campo of why he wanted to get involved. “I believe biodiesel is helping everyone, environmentally, socially, and economically. I want to be a part of pushing us forward to that.”

“We’re bringing the next generation of scientists together with biodiesel, the only advanced biofuel commercially available in the U.S.,” said Joe Jobe, NBB CEO. “Cementing support among future energy thought leaders is important to biodiesel’s future.”

NBB also wanted to create a forum where students who support biodiesel can collaborate and share ideas.

Any student scientist can sign the declaration, found at

They will then have opportunities to learn from each other, including a virtual conference, scheduled for Sept. 28. A Facebook page also provides students with a forum to discuss biodiesel with each other and view profiles of other students and their biodiesel projects.

The Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel initiative is modeled after the Scientists for Biodiesel campaign.

Launched in February 2009, 125 scientists have signed on to the declaration. Both initiatives are led by NBB, and supported by the United Soybean Board and soybean checkoff.

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Rakesh Raman