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Sustainable energy research center open house shows Russ College students world of opportunity

Elisabeth Weems | Sep 25, 2017
ISEE Open House

Sustainable energy research center open house shows Russ College students world of opportunity

Elisabeth Weems | Sep 25, 2017

To the average person, the innards of the Ohio University Biochem Building look high-tech, futuristic, and metallic -- especially through green lab goggles.

But to Russ College students who attended the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment (ISEE) open house Wednesday got the inside scoop on career paths as well as current research and how they – even as undergraduates – can help develop ways to sustainably produce the fuels, chemicals, and materials we depend on.

Jason Trembly, associate professor and director of ISEE, emphasized the institute’s two primary purposes: to create for good in ways that extend beyond OHIO, and to cultivate the engineers and technologists of tomorrow.

“We develop methods and technologies to address environmental issues that we have both regionally and nationally,” Trembly said. “We’re an academic institution, so our main job is to develop undergraduate and graduate students with the skill sets needed for them to go out and have successful careers.”

Research Project Leader Wen Fan led students through the facility as current student researchers presented their projects on converting biomass such as algae to energy, treating wastewater from oil wells, and monitoring methane leaks from shale gas to make fracking safer, to name a few.

Fan, who joined the research facility in 2014 as an analytical chemist, and now assists students with research and manages equipment. She explained that students undergo extensive equipment training to prepare them to apply research to solve real-world problems. This, and the project experience they’ll gain, can lead them directly to career opportunities.

“Working in an engineering environment is important for students,” Fan said. “A lot of our students have an easier time getting internships or co-ops because they have lab experience.”

Pretom Saha is a mechanical engineering master’s student who is conducting research on the use of biomass as an energy source. It causes less harm to the environment than nonrenewable energy.

“All ISEE projects have the same goal: to do something better for the environment,” Pretom said. “A better environment means a better future for future generations.”

Pretom explained that working in the lab complements classroom knowledge.

“At ISEE, you have the freedom to implement your knowledge,” Pretom said. “When you learn something in your textbook, you just learn how to do it. But when you actually do something in real life, you face a lot of difficulties. Students can learn here how to handle those challenges.”