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October 2018   |   Vol. 8, Issue 4


Message from Department Head Gary R. Sands

We’re three weeks in now, and the fall semester is well underway. Enrollment in our majors is holding steady: 191 students in bioproducts and biosystems engineering (BBE) and 81 students in sustainable systems management (SSM). We also added to our ranks of graduate students, some of whose intros you will find in this issue. Our faculty are busy teaching approximately 30 courses across several programs this fall, with our orientation courses experiencing robust enrollments: 71 students in BBE 1001 and 40 students in SSM 1004.

group of students surround a professor who's showing them a stream restoration site

I recently had the pleasure of joining the BBE 1001 field trip to the U of M Cloquet Forestry Center, where students had an opportunity to learn more about our major through faculty interaction and field excursions. The accompanying photo features Research Professor Joe Magner with a subset of the orientation group, observing a stream restoration site, while the remainder of the orientation students visited the SAPPI pulp and paper mill in Cloquet, MN to see firsthand, some of the work that bioproducts and biosystems engineers do.

This month, we highlight some of Dr. Erin Cortus’ work in sustainable animal agriculture systems. Dr. Cortus has been with BBE for about one year now and is making her presence felt on campus. In addition to her research, she and Dr. Kevin Janni will co-chair the national 2019 Waste to Worth Conference in the Twin Cities. Please don’t forget to look at our upcoming events and mark your calendars—we would love to see you on campus this fall at one of our many events!


Research news

  • Zhou to represent BBE at Science in Seconds competition
    nan zhouDoctoral student Nan Zhou will represent our department at the St. Paul Campus Science in Seconds competition on October 15.

    Advised by Professor Roger Ruan, Zhou's research interests include thermochemical conversion of biomass for biofuel production, specifically upgrading of biofuel via heterogeneous catalysis coupled with non-thermal plasma. He's also working on a project using a novel microwave heating method to prevent the outbreak of avian influenza.

    Zhou was selected to represent our department after winning a departmental competition held earlier this year. He presented original research aimed at a general audience in three minutes or less using only one slide with no animation or pointing aids.

    Zhou received a B.S. degree in energy and power engineering from Xi'an Jiaotong University in China and a M.S. degree in biosystems and agricultural engineering from Oklahoma State University.

    You can go support and watch Zhou compete:

    Date: October 15, 2018
    Time: 3 pm - 5 pm
    Location: St. Paul Student Center, North Star Ballroom

    Winners will be announced at the end of the competition. See who's participating, who's judging, and the schedule

  • Hill, Nogueira work together to analyze Brazil's corn ethanol production
    Roberta NogueiraRoberta Nogueira is an agricultural engineering professor from the Federal University of Mato Grosso (UFMT), campus of Sinop, in Brazil. She's spending her sabbatical with the department to analyze the costs and benefits of corn ethanol production in Brazil with Associate Professor Jason Hill.

    The city of Sinop is located in the northern region of the state of Mato Grosso, which is at the interface between the Amazon and Cerrado biomes. The region stands out for its important production of grains and meat, and now, there is the "dawning of ethanol production from corn with the installation of three industries in the region," Nogueira said.

    "Since the production of ethanol from corn is just starting there, we don't have data about production sustainability. So, some data can be estimated using the U.S. experience in corn ethanol production," she said.

    Nogueira is working with Hill because he has "experience in analyzing the impacts of production chains—with emphasis on energy production and use—and the need to analyze the possible impacts" of corn ethanol production starting in Brazil.

    "I will stay here until July 2019 and hope to strengthen ties between the U of M and UFMT and build promising parades for both universities through joint projects and initiatives."

  • BBE hosts APPTI meeting
    people sitting at a table during a meetingWe were pleased to host the Alliance for Pulp & Paper Technology Innovation (APPTI) meeting on September 20.

    Industry leaders from many major pulp and paper and chemical supplier companies attended the meeting, including International Paper, Domtar, Georgia-Pacific, Nalco Water (Ecolab), Verso Corporation, WestRock, KapStone Paper and Packaging, Liberty Paper, and many others.

    We would like to thank several faculty members for presenting their current research and students for their participation. It was a great opportunity to share our work, get feedback from the industry, learn more about the technical challenges facing the industry, as well as an excellent opportunity to network.

    APPTI Executive Director David Turpin said, “We appreciate BBE hosting APPTI for an excellent all-member meeting. Partnerships with universities, like the one we have with the University of Minnesota, are critical to facilitate the work that will solve problems and address technology challenges that the industry faces.”

    Learn about APPTI and the member companies


Student news

  • Welcome new BBE graduate students, post-docs
    Please welcome the following post-docs and graduate students to our department. Some have shared a little more about themselves—go to our website to learn more.

    Graduate students
    -Elsa Flage, M.S. student (advised by Joe Magner)
    -Tanner Barnharst, Ph.D. student (advised by Bo Hu)
    -Laura Bender, Ph.D. student (advised by Chris Lenhart)
    -Natalia Calixto Mancipe, Ph.D. student (advised by Brett Barney)

    Post-docs
    -Srinidhi Balasubramanian (works for Jason Hill)
    -Yi Yang (works for Tim Smith)