Freshman Bioenergy Course Offered for First Time
By Amanda Voye
For the first time ever, UW-Madison’s First-Year Interest Group (FIG) program is offering a bioenergy course this fall.
Through a new partnership between the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative (WBI) and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), students in Bioenergy: Sustainability, Opportunities and Challenges are able to both see research in the field and interact with researchers in GLBRC labs.
“Students not only get a real sense of what the topic is, but they also get to talk with the experts and be present in the environments in which those experts are working,” says John Greenler, director of education and outreach at GLBRC.
Caption: Freshmen at UW-Madison monitor CO2 release from soils as part of a First-Year Interest course focused on biofuels. Photo by John Greenler.
Each FIG provides a group of 20 freshman students the opportunity to enroll in a cluster of three courses linked by a common theme. The bioenergy course is open to any major, and quickly filled up during freshman registration.
“All students in the bioenergy course are also taking introductory chemistry and an environmental studies course,” says Greenler, who teaches the course.
Greenler says that it is meant to be an interdisciplinary class, focused on a range of bioenergy topics that include sustainability, the ecosystem, and potential biofuel production.
The students are very excited to be dealing with a contemporary issue. During the course they will be exploring the broad frameworks of bioenergy, related technologies and sustainability issues.
Early in the semester, the class took a trip to the Arlington Research Station to visit bioenergy field plots. They will also visit GLBRC labs later this fall, working in the teaching labs and visiting the researchers in their environment.
“Another thing that’s significant in terms of the FIG program is that they really target low income, minority, first in family to college students,” says Greenler. “Overall, about 30 percent of students in the FIG program are minorities.”
Greenler’s areas of expertise include sustainable biofuel research and development, science education materials development and outreach, global aspects of bioenergy and molecular aspects of biofuels. He is a member of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, National Science Teachers Association, and the Ecological Society of America.