Iowa State University (Ames, Iowa)

A graduate student at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, Bernardo del Campo first experienced biodiesel in his native Uruguay. “We got to see a tractor running on biodiesel, and it opened my mind,” del Campo said. “The relative simplicity of making biodiesel and its feasibility to be implemented in agricultural equipment, right away I was just amazed with the possibility of finding alternative paths to petroleum.”

Since then, del Campo has made it his life’s work to be a part of an energy revolution. That’s why he was selected as one of four co-chairs of the national Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel campaign. Led by the National Biodiesel Board, the campaign is an effort to demonstrate – and generate – support among tomorrow’s energy leaders, like del Campo.

“Biodiesel can certainly make an impact on the world,” del Campo says. “I believe biodiesel is helping everyone, environmentally, socially, and economically. I want to be a part of pushing us forward to that.”

At ISU, Del Campo is a Master of Science Major in Biorenewable Resources and Technologies. It is one of the few biofuels majors in the country.

Although not in the professional workforce yet, del Campo already has an impressive career in biofuels and agriculture. As a Graduate Research Assistant, he has done research on things such as soil fertility, and on enzymes that break down soybeans for a new oil extraction method. The oil is the portion of the bean used for biodiesel, while the soybean meal goes into the food supply. He is also a teaching assistant in a course that is a holistic study of renewable fuels and resources. Del Campo’s latest project involves bringing the fuel from the laboratory to the campus itself. With an active group of students, BioBus Organization, a student-run club, is hoping to collect the school’s waste grease and turn it into biodiesel for the ISU buses. The group needs to raise another $6,000 to expand the biodiesel production facility. The students plan on starting with one ISU bus running on a blend of 20 percent biodiesel (B20) produced at the school.

“After we show that it is a success, and that we can produce high-quality biodiesel that meets national standards, we’re hoping to increase our production scale, and perhaps reach Ames city buses some day,” he said. Furthering his passion for biodiesel, in January he bought a Mercedes Benz with a diesel engine.

Del Campo has been instrumental in helping ISU educate the state’s youth on biodiesel, too. Each summer, he helps lead student workshops to engage them in engineering, which includes teaching them about biodiesel production.

Del Campo plans on pursuing a PhD, and has high hopes for biodiesel helping not only the United States, but developing nations like his native Uruguay become more self-reliant and environmentally minded.

“Biodiesel could be useful for so many developing countries,” he said. “It makes so much sense.”