CSU biofuels doctoral program receives $3 million

By Ryan C. Christiansen
Web exclusive posted Sept. 15, 2008 at 1:59 p.m. CST

Colorado State University has received a $3 million Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship Program grant from the National Science Foundation to establish the Integrated Graduate Education in Biorefining and Biofuels Program at the school. The funding will help financially support the education of up to 45 doctoral students during the next five years.

Instead of studying only one discipline related to biofuels, students in science, engineering, and economics participating in the program will be teamed together to study the various aspects of the biofuels industry-from the chemistry of making biofuels to selling them. At least 20 faculty members from across the university-many from the colleges of Engineering, Natural Sciences, and Applied Human Sciences-are expected to mentor doctoral students in the program, according to the school. Shell Global Solutions and General Motors Corp. have committed to providing internships for students, the university said, and CSU will provide an additional $600,000 to help fund graduate teaching assistantships and tuition.

"The biofuels industry needs people who understand the whole picture: where biomass comes from, the ways in which it's transformed into fuels and chemicals, and whether the entire process is sustainable," said Ken Reardon, CSU professor of chemical and biological engineering.

CSU is a participant in the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, which provides cooperation among the three major research universities in the state and also the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Reardon is the university's liaison to the Collaboratory's Center for Biorefining and Biofuels. ConocoPhillips announced in July that the company had signed a $5 million, multi-year research agreement with the center to produce triglycerides from algae, which can then be used to make renewable diesel, renewable jet fuel, biodiesel, and renewable gasoline, according to Lou Burke, ConocoPhillips' manager of biofuels.

"We're very supportive of this program given the changing nature of the biofuel industry," said Stephen Brand, senior vice president of technology for ConocoPhillips. "We look forward to working with students from Colorado State University and other institutions in the state to drive innovation to further the potential of renewable energy."

In July, CSU received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. DOE and USDA to accelerate research in the development of cellulosic biofuels.