University of Kansas (Lawrence, Kansas)
Chemical Engineering (Undergrad)
When Leo Budy enrolled in the chemical engineering program at the University of Kansas, a classmate told him that the KU Biodiesel Initiative sought new volunteers. The grassroots, student-run operation produces biodiesel from used cooking oil generated on campus. He eagerly checked into it.
“When I got the first tour of the lab, I knew I had stumbled across something that I could really get excited about,” Leo says. “I volunteered in the lab over the course of the summer, and I got absolutely addicted. The more time I spent in the lab helping to clean, organize, and maintain the biodiesel production process, the more captivated I became.”
He began to take on more responsibility in the program, and soon received an Undergraduate Research Award from the university to pursue a research project exploring plant-based adsorbents for the dry washing of biodiesel and biodiesel feedstocks. This research project took place over the course of the 2020 spring semester and has developed into a nascent research paper.
He credits the mentorship of his advisor, Dr. Susan Williams, chair of the School of Chemical Engineering at KU, and founder of the KU Biodiesel Initiative and the Kansas Biodiesel Consortium. Under her tutelage he attended biodiesel symposia across the state of Kansas, and then, the 2020 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in Tampa, Florida, thanks to a grant from the Kansas Soybean Commission.
“I had an amazing experience at the conference, to put it mildly,” he says. “I’m an extremely outgoing person and an excellent communicator – a networking machine,” he says. “The Expo, and especially the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel program there, gave me the chance to meet so many influential people in the biodiesel industry, and I just couldn’t believe how lucky I was for the opportunity.”
Leo took what some might consider a “non-traditional” path to his current academic career. Before enrolling at KU, he served in the American workforce for a few years, working as general manager of a Quinton’s Bar & Deli in Lawrence, Kansas. He successfully manned the helm of an annual $1 million revenue stream at the store, working within a large corporate structure – gaining leadership skills and experience that most undergrads don’t achieve until after college. Plus, he became very familiar with recycled cooking oil!
“It is a sincere privilege to join the co-chairs and to help continue the efforts of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel,” Leo says. “I am thoroughly committed to helping other future biodiesel scientists have the amazing experience that I had at the conference, and to pass on my inspiration to the next generation of students.”
The National Biodiesel Board is funded in part by the United Soybean Board and state soybean board checkoff programs.