Megan English, a graduate student in the Team Weimer Chemical and Biological Engineering research group, is the recipient of the Ryland Family Graduate Fellowship for the 2020-21 academic year.
The fellowship honors PhD students involved in alternative energy and efficiency research.
“I was quite surprised but very honored to receive this fellowship,” English said.
English’s work is focused on designing and synthesizing catalysts to efficiently convert carbon dioxide into gas feedstocks for synthetic fuels and chemicals. She plans to design an electrically heated reactor that could be powered by renewable energy sources.
“From a young age, I was interested in sustainable fuels and chemistry,” English said. “Part of the reason that I’m passionate about sustainability is my love of outdoor recreation. While most of the money will go to savings, I’ll also use a part of it to register for avalanche safety training this winter.”
Prior to her time as a graduate student, she was an intern within the oil and gas industry, where she saw the need for an industrial application of economically viable sustainable fuel sources.
“By taking sustainability improvements to the fuels and chemicals market, there’s the potential to see significant reductions in anthropogenic carbon emissions, which will contribute positively to the health of our planet,” English said.
Melvin E. and Virginia M. Clark Professor Al Weimer nominated English for the award.
“I am highly impressed with Megan, who is an incredibly hard worker, takes constructive criticism well, is well-liked by the group and does whatever is needed to move the project forward,” Weimer said. “She is a critical thinker and is able to think outside of the box about her project and come up with a very well-planned out approach for her research.”
English says she has learned a lot in her short time with the group.
“The Weimer Group is a very hands-on place to do experimental research,” English said. “During my time there, I’ve learned a lot, from fundamental chemistry to system design and control. Al has been a great mentor, providing practical advice and direction to my project. My lab colleagues have been extremely helpful in beginning my project and sharing their previous findings.
“I’m also grateful to my parents, who have supported me in everything that I’ve set my mind to.”
After earning her PhD in chemical engineering, English plans on entering industry to conduct industrial research and development to help the fuels industry transition away from petroleum-based carbon sources.
The College of Engineering and Applied Science awards the Dwight E. and Jessie D. Ryland Graduate Fellowship each year to a first-year full-time PhD student working in alternative energy or energy efficiency. Dwight Ryland is a School of Education alumnus who lives in Boulder. His wife, Jessie, passed away in 2018. They both had a strong interest in alternative energy and energy efficiency research, and created the fellowship to support PhD candidates pursuing research in these fields.