Zack Wofford Blog
This summer I made the long voyage north from Arkansas to Michigan State to try to help the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center make some sustainable biofuels. Specifically, I was tasked with optimizing a catalyst that is used in the upgrading process of pyrolyzed bio-oil. I was completely unfamiliar with this topic and its relation to the bio-based economy, but after a great deal of background research and learning from my mentor, Mahlet, I felt confident in my understanding of the objectives of the study. Working in the lab and developing an awareness for the project and its goals proved to be a rewarding experience.
Beyond lab work, I found the free time easily filled. The campus itself was almost incomprehensibly big; it seemed like there was always some exploring to be done. This size may have been challenge, however, without the help of my trusty MSU rental bike. Over the weekends some of us in the REU would travel. My weekends consisted of a trip to Toronto (Canada is perfect?!), and several trips to Lake Michigan’s beaches and Detroit. These were all a blast and left me greatly appreciating the natural and manmade wonders Michigan has to offer. My only regret in this regard is my failure to make it to the “Upper Peninsula.” From all accounts it seems to be a truly awesome place.
While I miss the weather of East Lansing, there is something really special about the Ozark Mountains and Arkansas’ nasty summer heat. I’m glad to be back and am excited to hopefully translate some of the skills I obtained this summer to my academic pursuits. Next summer I plan to acquire an internship position working in industry. Pure academic research is a valuable and engaging commodity, but I found myself wanting the more applied, real-world experience that I believe industry offers. However, if I ever find myself in some grad school somewhere, I believe that, due to the experience gained in this program, I would now be able to offer greater contribution.