High School girls research algae biodiesel

Posted By on November 13, 2006

Mit algae biodiesel presentationIts nice to see the next generation of our nations’ students focused on science and research … and this looks to be the case for two high school students, Holly Jacobson and Tessa Churchill, from Cumberland, Maine. According to an article in the Portland Press Herald, the 17 and 18 year seniors have been invited to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to explain their science project. The two girls ‘may’ have found an efficient way to product biodiesel from fast-growing algae. Although many projects are underway, algae biofuel is still in its infancy, but hold promise as a way to help solve a feedstock issue associated with most of the agricultural based renewable options.

According to the article, the girls are heading to “MIT to present their findings to a panel of university judges, who will weigh their project against those of three other teams in the regional finals of the sixth annual Siemens Math, Science & Technology competition. The event is sponsored each year by The College Board and is funded by the Siemens Foundation as a way to give students a chance to achieve national recognition for science research projects.”

According to Ms. Churchill the project started as a way to learn about scientific research. She states that “It definitely had to do with the oil crisis and everybody talking about finding some other substitute for fossil fuels, so we started researching algae. It grows very rapidly, and it grows in environments that won’t support other food stocks so space wouldn’t be taken up that could be used for growing food.” Ms Jacobson continued, “We started generally looking into biodiesel, but it wasn’t until last year that we started identifying the specific lipids.”

Jim Whaley, president of the Siemens Foundation, who sponsors the competitions praised all the entries and commented that “A lot of these kids are doing work at a Ph.D level.” Each entry will have 20 minutes to make their cases and have an opportunity to meet with some of the best professors in their field. For those of us involved in promoting biodiesel, we’ve been hoping for continued interest and research using algae. Hopefully these two promising students will consider furthering their education at the University of New Hampshire where a friend (Michael Briggs) is involved algae biodiesel. As the slogan goes … “You go girls.”

For an addition good read on algae based biodiesel, consider downloading and reading this PDF presentation.


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