University of Nevada, Reno
Biochemistry (PhD candidate)

After receiving a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology from Washington State University in 2011 and working for the Washington State Public Health Laboratories, Jesse Mayer had two reasons he decided to join a graduate program with an emphasis on biofuels.

“The first is the cutting-edge and globally beneficial research I get to perform,” he says. “The second, equally important reason is the ability to reach out to colleagues and the community to emphasize the benefits of a bio-based energy supply.”

The Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel program had given Jesse feedback on his research and helped him develop outreach ideas. After receiving two scholarships to attend the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo, he applied to be a co-chair to help give other students these same opportunities to build their knowledge and careers.

Jesse began the Ph.D. program in Biochemistry at the University of Nevada in 2012. His research focuses on molecular biology of plants, particularly those that use a unique photosynthesis pathway known as CAM. His current work investigates the potential of prickly pear cactus as a low-input biodiesel feedstock for semi-arid regions.

“My experience with biodiesel originates around my dissertation project, which is to produce semi-arid feedstocks with increased oil content,” he says. “I am personally focusing on Opuntia ficus-indica, a high-productivity cactus that we are transgenically modifying to produce increased oil content in the vegetative tissues. Our lab also works on reducing mucilage in Camelina sativa, a low-input oilseed crop that has recently received a lot of attention from major biodiesel producers.”

Outside of lab work, Jesse also spends time interacting with other departments and the community on biodiesel. He co-produced a display on semi-arid renewable feedstocks that is presented at university functions and at the annual Ag Field Day put on by agricultural extension.

“I am passionate about biofuels and particularly biodiesel because while we may eventually move away from combustible fuels, the transition will be slow and no clear alternative has been found in the transportation sector,” Jesse says. “Biodiesel is currently available, is sustainable, and is many times better at reducing carbon output than other fuels. I see a future heavily reliant on biodiesel. The ability to grow and produce the fuel domestically is also beneficial, and having the chance to attend the biodiesel conferences has shown me just how big the industry already is.”

Email Jesse Mayer