Dartmouth Engineering Major Selected to Attend National Biodiesel Conference

February 13, 2013

Morgan Curtis '14
Morgan Curtis ’14

Morgan Curtis ’14 was one of 16 college students given a unique opportunity to grow her passion for biodiesel at the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo last week in Las Vegas. Scholarships to attend the conference were awarded to select members of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel, a National Biodiesel Board (NBB) program that aims to educate and collaborate with young scientists.

Biodiesel is an advanced biofuel made from sustainable resources such as soybean oil, recycled grease and other fats and oils.

“I believe that biodiesel is an important part of a growing sustainability movement,” said Curtis. “It’s a 21st century renewable fuel that works towards lowering foreign oil imports, has a cleaner emissions profile, provides rural as well as technical jobs, does not compete with food and, most importantly, inspires people. There's no better feeling than the freedom of driving on 100% biodiesel!”

After a summer traveling the U.S. on The Big Green Bus—a waste-oil and biodiesel-powered bus—promoting alternative fuels and sustainability, Curtis changed her major from biology to engineering modified with environmental science. Since then she has driven more than ten thousand miles on biodiesel in her Volkswagen TDI, operated a biodiesel plant in northern England, and co-chaired the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel program. In addition to attending the conference, she continues to promote alternative fuels as an intern at the Yellowstone-Teton Clean Energy Coalition (YTCEC), a branch of the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program.

Morgan Curtis and The Big Green Bus and crew.
Curtis (seventh from the left) and The Big Green Bus. (Photo: Joseph Mehling '69)

“The conference was extremely worthwhile,” said Curtis. “It was fascinating to look at things from the industry standpoint, and I was surprised by the huge focus on agriculture. I was invited to dinner with members of the United Soybean Board and was fascinated to hear their side of the 'food vs. fuel' debate.

“Also, as a strong B100—100% biodiesel—advocate,” added Curtis, “I've often railed against car manufacturer's slow progress towards accepting higher blends of biodiesel. However, seeing the industry as a whole made me realize there is more opportunity for petroleum displacement from many users running B5 or B10 than from only a few running B100. It was also invaluable to hear directly from Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen engineers exactly what the concerns are with running B100 in their advanced diesel engines.”

The conference scholarships are funded by state soybean organizations and the United Soybean Board with students coming from a wide array of institutions.

"They are often called 'student scientists,' but the reality is that these are full-fledged scientists, contributing to the large body of work that makes up biofuels research in this country," said NBB Technical Project Manager Kyle Anderson. "There is tremendous potential for this NBB program to have a lasting impact on biodiesel research. It's a great investment to share solid information and build relationships with tomorrow's scientific thought leaders."

The Big Green Bus crew
Curtis (center) with members of the 2011 Big Green Bus (most are Dartmouth engineering majors). From l to r: Matt Knight '11 Th'12; Phil Cameron, Executive Director, YTCEC; Erik Skarin '14; Nick Devonshire '11; Morgan Curtis '14; Joey Gabianelli '14; Meegan Daigler '14; Alicia Cox, Programs Director, YTCEC; Jules Valenti Th'11