Professor publishes book about biofuels

One professor is researching environmental sustainability and advanced biofuels while also contributing to the classroom and curriculum.

Biofuels are an alternative type of energy that can be helpful as fossil fuel sources steadily run out, according to the National Renewable Energy Lab.

Biofuels professor Anju Dahiya in UVM’s plant and soil science department said she hopes to switch the focus to renewable methods instead of resorting to dangerous methods of fuel extraction such as fracking.

“The essentiality of biofuels is not only for human necessity for fuel, but for the reduction of environmental and health impacts of fossil fuels,” Dahiya said.

The use of fossil fuels has pushed carbon dioxide rates to a dangerous level, according to the climate outreach project Climate Communication.

They estimate that these emissions would have to decline by about 60 percent by 2050 in order to be stabilized, according to the project.

Using her knowledge and experience with the biofuel system, Dahiya said she is involved with General Systems Research, a Burlington-based company that partners with agencies like NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy, promoting biofuel as a source of energy over fossil fuels.

After earning her Ph.D. and teaching at UVM, Dahiya said she created the “Biomass to Biofuels” program that allows students to get experience with technology used in biofuels, using guest lectures and field trips to give the class a hands-on approach.

Dahiya said she also edited an accompanying textbook, “Bioenergy: Biomass to Biofuels,” that helps students understand the concept of biofuels and the research involved with the subject. Many students have praised the class, preferring Dahiya’s approach to teaching over traditional lectures.

“I feel I gained so much more knowledge about all of the different biofuels available today than I would have in a more traditional class,” former student Samantha Csapilla said. “I never thought I would enjoy turning raw manures and food wastes into biogas, and getting covered in it, as much as I did.”

Csapilla said she works for a renewable energy company doing research, and thanks Dahiya for stimulating her enthusiasm in biofuels research.

“I love my job, it is truly rewarding, and if it were not for this course, I’m not sure where I would have ended up,” Csapilla said.

Senior natural resources major Grant Troester highlighted his favorite part of the program, a service learning project.

“This project helped kick start my career in the energy field, giving me my first experience working for an energy company,” he said.