Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas)
Biochemistry (PhD student)
Most of the emails we receive are mundane: Banking reminders, clothing sale announcements, airline advertisements. Very few emails change our lives.
But in May 2010, Dan Browne, then an undergraduate at the University of Portland, received an email that would change his life profoundly.
“My academic adviser sent an email inquiring whether there was anyone interested in working with the biodiesel processor that had been purchased a few years prior and was sitting unused,” Browne said.
Though he didn’t know much about biodiesel at the time, Browne jumped at the opportunity. In the fall of 2010, Browne and a few other students began repairing the processor. Soon, they were successfully generating batches of biodiesel fuel using waste vegetable oil from the campus food service provider.
“Renewable fuels are increasingly important as we move past peak oil production and seek to build a sustainable, clean energy economy,” Browne said. “Biodiesel is especially attractive because it is simple and easily implemented.”
Browne graduated from the University of Portland in December 2011 with his bachelor’s degree in environmental science and a minor in chemistry, but other students are still working with the processor to preserve Browne’s vision of biodiesel production on campus. Now a graduate student at Texas A&M University pursuing his Ph.D. in biochemistry, Browne works in the lab of Dr. Tim Devarenne studying lipid metabolism in the green microalga Botryococcus braunii, an organism with tremendous potential to serve as a biofuel feedstock.
“I am fully committed to the principles of sustainability and envision myself working as an entrepreneur in the private sector developing innovative renewable fuel solutions,” Browne said.
Browne was awarded a scholarship to attend the 2011 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in Phoenix, Ariz., where he had the opportunity to meet with other biodiesel scientists from around the country. Due to his academic excellence, extracurricular projects, and passion for sustainability, Browne was named a co-chair of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel in 2012. He enjoys working with other biodiesel scientists and advancing the mission of the NGSB.