Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, MO)
Environmental Engineering – Undergrad
James Brizendine first became interested in biodiesel during an experimental entrepreneurship course his sophomore year. His project simulated a biodiesel start-up business model, partnering with a PhD student in chemical engineering.
“Most of my efforts were spent researching the chemistry behind making biodiesel and becoming familiar with the industry,” he said. “Once I felt I had a firm understanding of the alternative fuels market and the science that drives it, my partner and I formed a list of questions for the people already making biodiesel, particularly in the United States. We then called around to various grease collection companies, biodiesel production facilities, and even visited local restaurants to gain real insight, not only for how they all worked together, but also to uncover common pain points.”
Their research went so well in the classroom that their professors encouraged them to apply for an internship at the Technology Development Center located in Rolla, MO.
“During my internship, I made hundreds of phone calls a week to biodiesel production companies, trucking companies, soybean farmers, and grease collectors,” Brizendine said. “I even got to drive to the National Biodiesel Board in Jefferson City and had a long discussion with the team about my biodiesel efforts.
“One particular interview I had with a fellow in Oregon really struck a chord with me and my passion for environmental engineering. He told me all about his biodiesel plant he used to own and operate in Portland, and how the rise and fall of his company lead to him doing work for the government of Fiji. The take-away there for me was that not only is biodiesel the best alternative to petroleum diesel in the United States, but developing countries really want biodiesel, too!”
Now Brizendine is working with his original PhD partner and a chemical engineering professor on building a biodiesel reactor on campus.
“I wanted to be a co-chair because it is an amazing opportunity to become deeply involved with the biodiesel industry and the people that run it,” he said. “I am also already involved in spreading the word about biodiesel and being co-chair would really help me gain momentum with my current campus efforts. I am firmly set on a career path in the biodiesel industry and this position will be a great start to my journey.”