BRT Student Boosts Science Communications Skills with Fellowship

Juan Proano Aviles, a student in the Biorenewable Resources and Technologies (BRT) graduate program, has completed a fellowship in Reiman Gardens’ Portal to the Public science communications program. The fellowship provides workshops and mentorships to help scientists and students enhance their communications skills. As part of the program, fellows develop a hands-on activity related to their scientific field and participate in public events to share their knowledge and experience.

“My major professor suggested this program to me,” Proano Aviles said.  “I thought this was an excellent opportunity to improve my skills to share complex ideas in a simple but complete way.” His professor is Robert C. Brown, BEI director. Proano-Aviles will be defending for his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Iowa State University in June 2017. He researches fast pyrolysis ­­­– decomposition at elevated temperatures in the absence of oxygen — and how the technology can be used to turn biomass into fuels and chemicals.

[PHOTO]Juan Proano AvilesJuan Proano Aviles (right), a graduate student in the Biorenewable Resources and Technologies program, explains the science of pyrolysis at a public event held at Reiman Gardens in April 2017.


Proano Aviles said the experience helped him organize his ideas to be more effective. “This fellowship made me realize what triggers our interest and motivates us to inquire for more knowledge and understanding of our reality,” he said.

Reiman Gardens held one of its public events in April in which Proano Aviles participated. “I enjoyed seeing people’s interest sparkled, igniting a chain reaction of questions. The visitors took inspiration to go out and learn more about the topics we presented.” Reiman Gardens is a public garden located at the entrance to Iowa State, with a mission to educate, enchant, and inspire an appreciation of plants, butterflies, and the beauty of the natural world.

After graduation, Proano Aviles plans to join his alma mater as a researcher and teacher at the Escuela Politécnica Nacional, a university in Quito, Ecuador. “I want to look into sustainable solutions to problems pertaining the daily life in Ecuador,” he said. “I want to match biorenewable resources and technology with the growing energy and green chemicals needs we have in the region.”

BRT Students Take Home Poster Prizes

[PHOTO]Patrick Hall with posterTwo graduate students in the Biorenewable Resources and Technology (BRT) program won prizes in a poster competition held by the Center for Crops Utilization Research (CCUR) and BioCentury Research Farm (BCRF). The event was held April 20, 2017.

Patrick Hall with his winning poster.

Patrick Hall, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering at Iowa State, won first place in the graduate poster division. His poster was entitled, “Recovering Valuable Products from a Low-Value Aqueous Waste Stream.” Hall’s major professor is Robert C. Brown, director of the Bioeconomy Institute.

Wenqin Li took the third place prize with her poster, “The Pyrolysis-Bioenergy-Biochar Pathway to Carbon-Negative Energy.” Li is also a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering; her major professor is Mark M. Wright, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and a BEI affiliate.

[PHOTO]Wenqin Li with her posterBoth Hall and Li are students in BRT 506C, a biobased products seminar. The course is taught by Jacqulyn Baughman, BRT Director of Graduate Education.

Wenqin Li with her winning poster.

Wood Artwork Wins Biorenewables Art Competition

A wooden stool made by Matthew Obbink was named best-in-show at the eighth annual Biorenewables Art Competition. Entitled Dunnage Stool #1, the stool is made with reused materials and natural stains and paints. Obbink is a graduate student in Art and Visual Culture at Iowa State University. Obbink receives a cash award of $750, which was announced at the exhibition’s opening reception on Apr. 21, 2017. Obbink’s piece will be added to the Biorenewables Research Center’s permanent art collection.

[PHOTO]Matthew ObbinkMatthew Obbink, a graduate student in Art and Visual Culture at Iowa State, won best-in-show at the Biorenewables Art Competition 2017 with his wooden stool made of reused materials and natural stains and paints.

Anna Wagner, an undergraduate in the Integrated Studio Arts (ISA) program, grabbed first place and $350 for her kinetic jewelry piece called “Renewed.” In second place was a mixed media piece made of old automobile parts. It won $250 for its artist, Claire Smith, also an ISA student. And third place and $150 went to Kelly Devitt, another ISA student, for her ceramic wall piece, “Wild Honey Comb.”

The competition is aimed at students from Iowa State’s College of Design, who create works that reflect the mission of the Bioeconomy Institute (BEI). The event connects students with the research occurring in the Biorenewables Research Laboratory, which is located adjacent to the College of Design. The competition also helps to introduce the concept of biorenewables to a wide audience.

The art was evaluated by a jury that included Kristin M. Roach, an Ames-based artist; Alison Ferris, senior curator at the Des Moines Art Center; and Patrick Hall, a scientist and Ph.D. student at the Bioeconomy Institute.

The exhibit includes paintings, mixed media pieces, furniture, jewelry, digital works, and videos (view below).  It will be on display until March 2018 in the lobby of the Biorenewables Research Laboratory (BRL). The BRL is located on the west side of the Iowa State campus. Viewing during office hours is free and open to the public.

Des Moines Register | Could algae solve Iowa towns’ clean water woes? 2 ISU scientists say, ‘Yes’

The Des Moines Register reports that two Iowa State University scientists believe algae can help cut costs for hundreds of small Iowa towns that face up to $1 billion to upgrade their wastewater treatment to meet tougher clean water standards. ISU’s Martin Gross and Zhiyou Wen have developed a system that uses algae to remove phosphorus and nitrogen from wastewater, cleaning water before it’s released into the state’s rivers and streams. The research on the algae system was supported by BEI. Read the article in the Des Moines Register

Bioeconomy Institute trading card