The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) is investing in the education and training of America’s future scientists and engineers through its a University Training and Research (UTR) program. This program is supporting early-stage research at U.S. colleges and universities, helping to advance FECM’s mission of minimizing the environmental and climate impacts of fossil fuels and industrial processes while working to achieve net-zero emissions across the U.S. economy. 

The UTR program highlights the key role technology plays in addressing America’s energy challenges, promotes the development of innovative technologies, and reinforces workforce development as a part of the nation’s continued economic prosperity. Additionally, this program supports the Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institution (HBCU–MSI) and the University Carbon Research programs. 

The HBCU-MSI program aims to equip underrepresented, diverse student groups with cutting-edge, translatable skillsets through research and development opportunities that will help them sustain successful science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. This program also builds the capacity for research in FECM priority areas at historically disadvantaged institutions of higher education.  

The University Carbon Research program emphasizes research and development efforts that are structured to achieve FECM’s goals in concert with student education in relevant carbon management topics—ranging from carbon capture and computational energy sciences, all the way through to the development of advanced high-performance materials, sensors, and controls.

Meet the 2023 University Training and Research Participants

UTR - Estefania Garcia

Estefania Garcia is a graduate student studying biogeochemistry at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Estefania’s research is centered on studying trace elements, including arsenic and selenium, in coal fly ash, a byproduct of fossil fuel use in the coal industry. The results of this research should provide better insight into waste disposal and the possible beneficial uses of waste in the concrete industry. 

Estefania’s research involves characterizing representative samples of coal fly ash from across the United States. The re-use of fly ash decreases the amount of cement needed for concrete mixtures, leading to the potential reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Additionally, Estefania’s efforts will provide a benefit to communities. Fly ash is mostly disposed of in ash ponds, and leaching from these ponds may affect the quality of local water quality. The information gathered from studying arsenic and selenium mobility, along with the oxidation for certain fly ashes, would be beneficial to those communities. Estefania feels the UTR program has provided her with an excellent opportunity to harness her research skills and would recommend the experience to other students.

HASANUR CHOWDHURY UTR Spotlight Graphic

Hasanur Chowdhury is a PhD student specializing in Fiber-Optic Sensors research at Michigan State University, and he is participating in the UCR program.

Hasanur’s research is centered on studying the high accuracy and stability of fiber-optic sensors for coal-fired advanced energy systems. This research helped to develop a novel method to measure temperature with high accuracy and long-term stability compared to conventional sensors.

Temperature is a key parameter to monitor and control in advanced energy systems. Hasanur’s research involves fabricating a fiber-optic Fabry-Perot Interferometer sensor that can measure high temperature with excellent accuracy and is free from cross-strain sensitivity and calibration requirements.

Additionally, Hasanur’s efforts will provide a community benefit. A fiber-optic sensor-based temperature measurement system that provides high accuracy, immunity to cross-strain sensitivity, and long-term stability for extended periods of operations, compared to conventional thermocouples, can be used in other high-temperature measurement applications such as power plants, aerospace, metallurgical processes, automotive industry, oil and gas industries, etc., ultimately improving operational efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Hasanur is proud of his accomplishments gained in the UTR program. He believes the hands-on research experience will benefit his future opportunities regarding fiber-optics research in advanced energy systems. He says he would recommend the experience to other students to nurture their research potential and gain professional training for the future. 

ZACHARY CHANOI UTR Spotlight Graphic

Zachary Chanoi is a graduate student studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso and he is participating in the HBCU-MSI program.

Zachary’s research is centered on using microwave energy and iron-based alumina catalysts to produce valuable hydrogen as a clean energy source by producing solid carbon nanotubes from hydrocarbons without releasing harmful carbon dioxide. 

Zachary’s research focuses on the synthesis of catalyst via a combustion process using characterization instruments, such as an X-ray diffraction, to map process-structure-property relationships of the catalysts to optimize their use in the microwave assisted production of hydrogen.

Additionally, Zachary’s research provides environmental and economic benefits to the community by demonstrating a process that could ultimately harness energy from fossil fuels without releasing greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, Zachary notes the more direct benefit of being able to mentor and guide other students through their first-time research experiences.

Zachary’s involvement in the HBCU-MSI program has led to him participating in another FECM program that promotes diversity and career development, the National Energy Technology Laboratory's Consortium of Hybrid Resilient Energy Systems (CHRES); a program providing summer internships to students and faculty from four Hispanic-Serving Institution. He would recommend the experience to other students, especially those from disadvantaged communities who lack resources and exposure to careers in research. 

 

LAWRENCE ANYIM UTR Spotlight Graphic

Lawrence Anyim is a graduate student studying Energy Engineering at the University of North Dakota and he is participating in the UCR program.

Lawrence’s research project, Biogas Utilization in Refuse Power Plants, or BURP is focused on developing a comprehensive baseline life cycle assessment (LCA) for a dual fuel combustion system. This dual fuel combustion system integrates fossil and renewable resources while incorporating carbon dioxide capture and storage technologies. In particular, the research centers around modeling the LCA for utilities that utilize coal refuse, often called waste coal, in conjunction with biogas to minimize the overall carbon footprint associated with such facilities.

Lawrence’s research involves building impact assessment models that can help in developing net-zero or net-negative carbon emission power plants that limit the effects of climate change and remediate areas affected by coal waste. The models can also help in determining the sizes of power plant components, feedstock requirements, and the best scenarios for sustainable electrical energy production.

Lawrence believes his research has been beneficial to his studies and has even provided him new career aspirations. After working on the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels, his research interests now lie in reducing the environmental impacts of fossil fuel use. The research conducted through the UCR program has assisted him in quantifying the environmental impact of an energy system, significantly expanded his comprehension of waste remediation techniques, and revealed the potential of bioenergy-based systems integrated with carbon capture and storage to mitigate carbon emissions effectively. Additionally, Lawrence has gained insight into the career opportunities that integrate energy and environmental studies in the fields of renewable energy development, sustainability consulting, environmental policy analysis, climate modeling, and green technology innovation.

The community benefits of Lawrence’s efforts are abundant and diverse. By combining waste coal remediation, biogas production, and carbon capture and storage in long-term power generation, Lawrence and his team aim to transform wastes into resources. This approach reduces the power plant’s environmental impact, creating new economic opportunities and cleaner air. He believes his efforts will allow communities to enjoy enhanced sustainability, economic growth, and improved health.

Lawrence highly recommends the UCR program research experience to his fellow students, touting the exposure of hands-on training and in-depth research in carbon management that he feels will equip his peers with practical skills and empower them to actively contribute to building a more sustainable energy future.

Paul Kigaya UTR Spotlight Graphic

Paul Kigaya is a senior studying Engineering Physics at Morgan State University, and he is participating in the HBCU-MSI program.

Paul’s research is centered on using computation skills to create user interface to collect and save data from an external hardware system. 

Paul believes his research will contribute to the possibility of testing thermal properties of materials that will help build a net-zero greenhouse gas emission future. 

Additionally, Paul credits the research conducted in the HBCU-MSI program with advancing his knowledge and skills related to his studies at Morgan State’s School of Computer, Mathematical & Natural Sciences. He describes the program as a life-changing opportunity he would not be privy to as part of a traditional undergraduate curriculum, and he recommends the experiences to his peers.