Chemical and biomolecular engineering grad student honored

10:19 a.m., June 1, 2012–Tyler Josephson, a University of Delaware doctoral student in chemical and biomolecular engineering, has been awarded the 2012 Laird Fellowship.

The prestigious fellowship honors the memory of George W. Laird, a UD mechanical engineering graduate who died in an accident at the age of 35. Given since 1997, it is bestowed upon candidates who exhibit character, creativity, imagination and perseverance, all of which are focal points of the selection process.

The award also encourages recipients to become engaged in a broadening intellectual pursuit that may or may not have direct applications to his or her chosen field of study.

Josephson, who is also a 2012 recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, is advised by Dion Vlachos, director of Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation and Elizabeth Inez Kelley Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

His research focuses on using computer simulations to study molecular-scale behavior involved in producing biofuels. Comparing simulation results to experimental results, he explained, enables engineers to better understand the chemical reactions and the effects that are important in thermochemical biomass processing – items important to turning biomass into useful chemicals or chemical byproducts.

“With a fundamental understanding of the chemistry in these systems, these technologies can be made more efficient and economical,” he said. “One day, we might even see a farm-scale biorefinery that can process local biomass to meet local fuel, fertilizer or other chemical needs.”

This would not only stimulate local economies by creating locally derived products, it would also provide environmental benefits such as reduced transportation emissions.

“Tyler is an extremely bright, driven and deep individual with a phenomenal drive to educate others and give to society,” remarked Vlachos.

Like all previous winners of the Laird, Josephson has many interests including playing piano, biking and cooking. A former 4-H member, he once spearheaded a community recycling program that today annually removes 10,000 pounds of recyclables from his hometown community of Redwood Falls, Minn. At UD, he is a member of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and the Colburn Club, which installed a green roof on Colburn Laboratory last summer.

“I hope one day to become a chemical engineering professor in the renewable energy field. I like to explain things and I would hope to challenge my students to be well-rounded and grow not just intellectually, but also physically, socially and spiritually,” he said.

Josephson is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE); the American Chemical Society (ACS) and Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honors society. He earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from University of Minnesota in 2011, where he was a member of the University’s Honors Program and where he was on the College of Science and Engineering Dean’s List for six consecutive semesters.

Honorable mention

In an unprecedented action, the 2012 Laird Fellowship Committee this year also awarded two doctoral students an honorable mention — Okechukwu (Tony) Ogbuu, in materials science and engineering, and Hong Yu in mechanical engineering, citing “the notable strength of the applicant pool” in their decision.

Article by Karen B. Roberts

Photo by Evan Krape

Catalysis/Reactions2012 Laird Fellow