Program Details

Program Overview

Biomass‐derived fuels are a promising source of renewable energy with potential to reduce energy imports while decreasing net atmospheric emissions of CO2 and biomass-derived chemicals have similar attractive qualities. Making the production and processing of biomass more cost‐effective and ecologically sustainable is a key goal on the road to building a sustainable industrial society in the 21st century. Attaining this goal requires significant advancement in our understanding of mechanical, biochemical, thermodynamic, and hydrological processes within the complex natural and engineered systems associated with biomass production and processing.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has provided funds to Iowa State University’s Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department for an Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program that helps address sustainability of biomass production and processing. Student participants will select project areas that match their academic background and interests, and spend ten summer weeks at Iowa State University working on hypothesis‐driven research projects. Project topics are contributed by faculty researchers, while faculty and graduate students mentor each student’s research. The REU students become a part of a team involved in areas that address critical, long-term national needs in sustainable biomass production.

In 2013, the SPBB REU program will enroll a class of nine students, with these students becoming part of a team involved in areas that address critical, long-term national needs in sustainable biomass production. REU students will work in the following areas:

1. Harvest, Transportation and Storage of Biomass
2. Biomass Conversion and Processing
3. Modeling and Analysis of Bioproduction Systems
4. Hydrological Modeling for Sustainable Biomass Production
5. Water-Quality Impacts of Biofuel Related Biomass Production

Students selected for the program will work on interdisciplinary teams with faculty, graduate students, post-docs, and in some cases industrial partners. They will also engage with students participating in other Iowa State University based REU program in seminars, short courses, research tours, field trips and social events with mentors, graduate students, postdoctoral associates and others involved in related research. Students will be expected to work in a research lab for 40 hours per week, participate in weekly lab meetings and all other scheduled events. At the end of the program they will be required to present their research findings both orally and in the form of a poster.

Program Dates: May 28 – August 3, 2013

Spend your summer at Iowa State University in beautiful Ames, Iowa and have a great research experience. One of the highlights of the program is your attendance and presentations and the ASABE Annual International Meeting in Kansas City.

Stipend: $450 per week for ten weeks

Travel: The program will refund student travel costs up to a predetermined limit. Our team will work with each participant individually to arrange travel.

Housing: Program participants will be housed in an on-campus four-bedroom apartment with other REU student participants. Free campus housing and a generous subsistence allowance will be provided.

Field Trips: Students will tour Lincolnway Energy, a Renewable Energy Group biodiesel plant, and ISU’s BioCentury Research Farm

ASABE Annual International Meeting: students will travel to and attend the Annual International Meeting of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) in Kansas City on July 21 – 24 and present their research posters. Registration, travel and housing will be completely paid by the REU program. At the 2012 ASABE meeting in Dallas, TX and the 2011 ASABE meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, a member of our SBPP REU placed 2nd in the Undergraduate Project Poster Competition.

Eligibility*: Undergraduate students studying engineering, biological sciences, and physical or agricultural sciences are eligible. Participants must be US citizens or permanent residents. Students with strong academic records in lecture and laboratory courses applicable to any of the three thrust areas described above will be given preference. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply.
*Please note, an undergraduate student is defined as a student returning to undergraduate programs in the fall.

Notification Schedule: Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis beginning February 1. Formal review of applications begin at this time. The final application deadline is March 15. All materials, including faculty recommendations must be received by March 15. All admission decisions will be made by April 15.

Program Directors: Dr. Raj Raman and Dr. Michelle Soupir of the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department at Iowa State University

Application steps:

Before you apply, please be prepared to attach the following to your online application:

  • PDF version of your resume
  • Review the available projects on the Project Descriptions page (there are eighteen projects to choose from), and select your top three interests in priority order
  • A letter explaining your interests and preparation for the projects you identified
  • A letter explaining your previous research experience
  • A copy of an official or unofficial electronic academic transcript*
  • Email address for two references. An email will be sent to your reference to upload a letter of recommendation

*If your school requires to send transcripts please have it sent to the address below or email directly to

Program Coordinator:
MaryAnn Moore
Iowa State University
3101 NSRIC
Ames, Iowa 50011
515 294-4249