Research Focus

Sustainability and the effects fossil-based fuels have on the environment are becoming areas of increasing concern to the general public as well as areas of opportunity for the energy and fuels industry sector.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, reliance on fossil fuels is unsustainable and contributes to economic and political vulnerability.  However, economics is still the key driver for process development in the energy and fuels sectors.  Therefore, energy production processes that are environmentally responsible, economically viable and contribute to energy independence are needed, as well as innovative, holistic approaches for evaluating the potential environmental and societal impacts of those processes.  Furthermore, experience using the tools and methods of sustainable process design are needed by future engineering graduates.  Integrating these needs through an innovative and transformative combination of research, education, collaboration and outreach is the principle objective of my personal research plans.  These interests are divided between two principle research thrusts: Process Systems Engineering (PSE) and Sustainability.  These two separate, yet intimately related fields of study represent the overarching themes of my research efforts.


Current Research Areas

Process Design and Integration Research

This research project is focused on developing techniques for integrating process simulation and optimization with laboratory experimentation to develop novel process designs.  This work in process design will also strive to incorporate environmental impact and product life cycle assessment into the standard heuristics of conceptual process design.


Biofuels Research

UK Paducah Biodiesel Process

The research in biofuels is currently focused on developing novel catalysts for producing a variety of C3 compounds from the waste glycerol generated by the manufacture of biodiesel.  This research will not only identify novel catalysts, but also apply optimization techniques in the design of production scale reactors.  Process simulation will be used to identify the cost targets for which these processes are economically viable.  Additionally, our group is working with the African Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology (ACREST) to develop low cost process for producing biodiesel from locally available resources.



Biorefinery Research

The research in sustainable biorefineries is currently focused on developing process and economic models for biorefining based on utilizing sustainable resources in the western Kentucky region.  Our research group is focused on developing integrated process simulation and supply chain optimization models for regional scale biorefining. This research will be of particular interest to groups interested in developing biorefining technology in this region.


Research Group

Graduate Students

Sumesh Sukumara – Ph.D.

Suvid Joshi – Ph.D. (Member of Committee)

Abhijit Bhagavatula – Ph.D. (Member of Committee)

Will Faulkner – M.S. (co-Advised with Dr. Fazleena Badurdeen)

Joseph Amundson – M.S. (co-Advised with Dr. Fazleena Badurdeen)


Undergraduate Researchers

Max Croft – CME

William Croft – CME

Victor Escalante – CME

Kyle Lewis – ME

Joe Morgan – CME

Mitchell Peeler – CME

Zachary Watson – ME

Christina Willett – CME


Former Undergraduate Researchers

Bradley Butler, BS ME 2012

 Jason Gish, BS ChE 2010

Sean Hansrote, BS ChE 2010                                                  

Kandace Ramey, BS ChE 2010

Andrea Ramsey, BS ChE 2012                                                                

Luke Richardson, BS ChE 2010

Chris Sterrie, BS ME 2012

Jacob Thomas, BS ChE 2011  

Wesley Whipple, BS CME 2012