Alumni Spotlight - Mike Tetzlaff

Mike Tetzlaff posed in front of a grey background with arms crossed

 

In 2011, amid the growing concerns of climate change and depleting fossil fuel resources, Mike Tetzlaff graduated from the University of Minnesota's Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering (BBE) program with the skills to carve out a career in renewable energy. Fast forward to today, he is working in Amsterdam for Renewable Energy Group (REG), which was acquired by Chevron in 2022.

Tetzlaff's interest in renewable energy was sparked by the urgent need for alternatives to fossil fuels.

"Renewable energy, in general, would be a good place to be," he recalls. Wanting to contribute to the growing field, he learned about the BBE program and was drawn to its focus on biofuels and renewable products made from natural materials.

Reflecting on his decision to pursue BBE, Tetzlaff said, "there wasn't really a clear path at the time,” noting that most programs did not have a focus on renewables. “But BBE seemed to be a good path towards that area, either biofuels, or renewable products.”

After graduation, Tetzlaff began work right away as a lab technician for REG, a leading producer of biodiesel and renewable diesel. Over the years, he was promoted to his current position, Commercial Quality Assurance Engineer, where his focus is on raw materials like fats, oils, and chemicals. His role involves managing and improving quality assurance systems and processes and ensuring the integrity of the company's products.

Mike Tetzlaff posed outdoors holding a large spiky plant, wearing a baseball cap and glasses.

One of Tetzlaff's proudest professional moments came early in his career when he played a key role in solving a challenging problem related to a specific type of oil used in biodiesel production. His ability to develop innovative solutions and oversee the implementation and scaling up of the production was an integral part of the project’s success.

For current and future students of the BBE program, Tetzlaff emphasizes the importance of gaining practical experience through internships and undergraduate research opportunities with faculty. Further development of skills in chemistry, statistics, data analytics, and sustainability are crucial to success in this field.

Tetzlaff mentioned one simple way to stand out early in your career is to be proficient in tools like Microsoft Excel, which are indispensable in the technical realm of engineering and quality assurance.

As Tetzlaff continues to make strides in the renewable fuels industry, his commitment to sustainability and innovation remains at the forefront of shaping a more sustainable future for generations to come.