• The National Biodiesel Board

4 student innovators to lead Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel

Jenny Frank may still be a student, but her Ph.D. research at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry has already generated excitement in the biodiesel industry.


"To reduce the probability of catastrophic climate change, the world economy needs to quickly decarbonize, and biodiesel is a promising piece of the solution," Frank said. She conducts technoeconomic analyses for renewable energy pathways, quantifying the technical and financial feasibility of different technologies and feedstocks, including biomass-based diesel, in heavy-duty trucks.

Frank is one of four new co-chairs selected to lead the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel.

A program of the National Biodiesel Board and United Soybean Board for college-level science students, NGSB fosters professional relationships between budding and established scientists, shares accurate information and increases collaboration with academia and the biodiesel industry.

"As we strive for our goal of 6 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel by 2030, which would double our industry's current production, science will play a vital role," said Donnell Rehagen, NBB CEO. "Our four new co-chairs bring diverse and promising research, as well as exciting outreach experience to NGSB."

In addition to Frank, the three other new NGSB co-chairs include:

  • Leo Budy, an undergraduate chemical engineering student at the University of Kansas, has been a leader in the KU Biodiesel Initiative, a grassroots student-run operation that produces biodiesel from used cooking oil generated on campus. In addition, the university granted him an undergraduate research award to explore plant-based adsorbents for the dry washing of biodiesel and biodiesel feedstocks.


  • Zenith Tandukar, a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota studying agronomy and plant genetics, conducts research on domesticating and breeding pennycress into a major oilseed cropand a potential source of biodiesel and jet fuels. It has potential as a protective cover crop, which reduces the soil's vulnerability to environmental challenges like soil erosion and unwanted loss of nutrients, while also offering cash value for farmers as a source of plant protein, animal feed, and oil for biodiesel production.

  • John Cramsey, an undergraduate chemical engineering student at Iowa State University, served as president of the BioBus Club, which travels to local dining centers on campus, collects used fryer oil, and converts it into biodiesel using their own reactor. It's then used to help fuel the "CyRide" buses on campus and in the Ames, Iowa, community. He also secured a summer job with AGP, a biodiesel producer and soybean processor in Iowa.

The new co-chairs all received scholarships to attend the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo earlier this year. The NBB offers competitive travel scholarships to NGSB members. The application process for the 2021 conference will open in the fall.

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