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Students Publish Second Biomass Research Article

Mitchell Nguyen and Jennifer Hoang doing biomass researchUndergraduates Jennifer Hoang and Mitchell Nguyen are co-authors of an article with Dr. Elmer Ledesma, assistant professor of chemistry, that was published in  the American Chemical Society journal, “Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.”  This is the second article the students have worked on that has been published in a major journal. Their research is focused on producing chemicals, fuels, and energy from biomass, a renewable resource.

“Our undergraduate students are doing graduate-level and above research that has been accepted in a major publication,” Ledesma said. “It’s good for the public and the university to know about this accomplishment that could help raise funds for science research programs and the new science building.”

Hoang, a bio-chemistry major and pre-dental student, still can’t believe the second article was published so quickly after completion.

Jennifer Hoang, Mitchell Nguyen and Elmer Ledesma Biomass Research“I feel very lucky and grateful to Dr. Ledesma for giving me this great opportunity,” Hoang said. “To go into my junior year with two publications is unusual in undergraduate research. I don’t feel disbelief in the work done, but in the fact that we were able to do this research and have it published so quickly in a major journal. Dr. Ledesma has a good plan and knows what he wants from his research. A lot of people see us as only a liberal-arts school, but I think it’s important to keep people informed of the growing number of scientific research projects.”

Nguyen is mathematics major also doing the cooperative engineering program. Because this research is related to fuels engineering and chemical engineering, it will help him pursue a career in those fields or in the petroleum engineering field.

“This experience is a huge stepping stone,” Nguyen said. “Not only will it open up internship opportunities, but it will also help prepare me for the future.”

Their research consisted of examiningthe pyrolysis process of a lignin-derived compound, 4-vinylguaiacol. Lignin is a plant component, and their aim is to investigate alternate ways chemicals, fuels and energy are produced.

“All of the things we take for granted, the raw materials used to make products like clothes and shoes, come from fossil fuels.  Biomass materials are renewable, so there’s a net zero of carbon in the environment,” Ledesma said.

The research is funded by a joint-grant given to STEM students from both UST and Houston Community College. The journal usually targets research programs at larger universities, so this is a huge success for UST’s science departments and students.

By Deema Al-Rasheed

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