Saint Mary’s team attends BioFuelNet’s Advanced Biofuels Symposium in Vancouver

(L-R) Emily Peters, Jingwen Zhao, Dr. Kevin Vessey  Dr. Zhongmin Dong and Dr. Houman Fei.

A five-member team from the Faculty of Science at Saint Mary’s University recently attended the BioFuelNet’s Advanced Biofuels Symposium in Vancouver. 

The BioFuelNet (BFN) is a network of biofuels research community members. Their mandate is to focus “on the challenges impeding the growth of an advanced biofuels industry,” says the organization. 

Drs. Dong and Vessey have been involved with BFN since 2012 as researchers and Dr. Vessey is a member of the group’s Research Management Committee and  leads a Task Force in the Network on Biomass Feedstocks. 

“Advanced biofuels are part of our green and clean energy future,” says Vessey.  “Advanced biofuels can be used as replacements for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. In their production, many other high-valued bioproducts can also be produced like precursors for biomaterials and pharmaceuticals.”

Vessey also explains that advanced biofuels are produced from biomass waste. Along with forestry and other agricultural residues and municipal waste, they may also be derived from high-yield, low-input species such as willow or hybrid poplar. 

“Our research at SMU looks at how we can efficiently produce these biomass crops in Nova Scotia by using plant growth prompting supplements like seaweed extracts and beneficial soil bacteria and fungi,” says Vessey. 

Master of Science student Emily Peters found the conference to be beneficial, explaining that one of the biggest obstacles to research in this field is the lack of communication between researchers and the community that will be impacted.

“The student workshop at the conference was focused on teaching students how to use the skills and knowledge that we have worked so hard to attain during our research to find a job in Canada’s bioeconomy,” says Peters. 

“I think sometimes it’s hard to transfer skills learned in academia into a non-academic sector, so having successful professionals telling us how to transfer our skills most effectively based on experience was a great opportunity,” she added. 

BFN says it is working to develop and apply novel and innovative science, engineering and socio-economic strategies that will enhance environmental sustainability for future generations.