Robert's undergraduate research focused on mitigating the impacts of climate change through novel approaches to producing energy and processing wastes. He investigated the use of microalgae to treat wastewater and produce biofuels, and worked closely with faculty in the Departments of Environmental Studies and Chemistry & Biochemistry, who provided their expertise and laboratory space.
Today, Robert is working on his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan. He continues to investigate the use of microalgae to concomitantly treat wastewater and produce biofuels, with a focus on the use of novel thermochemical processes to obviate biomass drying and concentration steps that have significantly hampered successful implementation of this promising concept. With high pressure and high temperature water, Robert hopes to investigate how best to accomplish lipid extraction, liquefaction, and gasification to achieve the highest biofuel yields with the least amount of energy inputs. After attaining his degree, he hopes to pursue opportunities that allow him to implement the technologies he has developed on a large scale, thereby helping society transition away from carbon intensive fuels and towards clean energy production.
Robert has been awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (2009), the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute Graduate Fellowship (2009) and was a Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship National Finalist (2009).
Outside of class and research, Robert co-founded a start-up company (www.algalscientific.com) that is developing algae-based wastewater treatment processes. He also enjoys rock climbing, road cycling, cooking, and volunteering. He recently completed the Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day (RAMROD), a 150-mile road cycling endurance event. He is also active in the Better Living Through Engineering (BLUE) Lab, where he is developing small-scale anaerobic digestion technologies for developing areas.