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  • Writer's pictureRon Kotrba

KSU student selected as newest co-chair of Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel


Reagan Hurla, an undergraduate student at Kansas State University, has been selected as the newest of four co-chairs of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel, a no-cost student professional organization that fosters collaboration, networking, and career development related to biodiesel science. Hurla is a biological systems engineering major and was intrigued by biodiesel after joining the KSU Biodiesel Initiative, which makes biodiesel from used cooking oil generated on campus.

“As someone who has always been interested in renewable energy, I was excited to attend a meeting and quickly became a member,” she said. “The program has introduced me to a group of peers with interests similar to mine. It has also given me real world experiences working on the biodiesel production line.”

Hurla currently works mostly with glycerin separation and distillation in the biodiesel production process at KSU, helping her gain experience with the additional testing and reactions that come with making biodiesel from recycled cooking oil.

In 2020, she began an undergraduate research position in the Bioseparation and Bioprocessing Lab at KSU where Hurla initially worked on increasing biodiesel production for the KSU Biodiesel Initiative, improving quality control and testing methods, and analyzing the production process. Now she focuses more on reducing waste through development of a closed-loop production process.

“Through the design and testing of different glycerin refinery methods, we aim to use the treated glycerin in a biobased product, specifically hand soap, which can be used in campus facilities or donated to our campus food pantry,” Hurla said. “This has taught me a lot about the biodiesel waste stream and how it can be properly refined and used in biobased products.”

Hurla plans to attend graduate school and wants to continue learning about bioprocessing and biobased product production.

“The biodiesel industry is constantly progressing, and my goal is to continue to develop my education to a level where I can contribute my knowledge to the dynamic field of low-carbon fuel,” Hurla said. “My work at KSU has been a wonderful experience and significantly expanded my biodiesel knowledge. It has also given me many opportunities to meet experts within the industry.”

Hurla collaborated with the Loyola University biodiesel lab to help with the KSU operating procedures and usage of refining glycerin. She has also attended a sustainability workshop as well as the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo through a Kansas Soybean Commission sponsorship.

“As research on the Kansas State Biodiesel Initiative waste stream has progressed, I have developed a greater appreciation for the biodiesel industry, as well as a love for the bioseparation and bioprocessing aspects of engineering,” she said.

Hurla said being a co-chair of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel will help her continue to develop her education so she can contribute even more to the low-carbon fuel movement.

She replaces Leo Budy, who graduated from the University of Kansas, as the organization’s newest co-chair and joins Jenny Frank, (SUNY), Zenith Tandukar (University of Minnesota), and John Cramsey (Iowa State University) in leading the organization.

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