Successful development and implementation of sustainable chemical processes will require that we integrate scientific, social, environmental, economic, and business- related competencies, to meet sustainability goals while avoiding the pitfalls. An education program is now being developed at Oregon State University (OSU) to introduce sustainability concepts and green technologies to an interdisciplinary audience. Currently named as Bioenergy Minor, the program offers an introduction to technical background, recent innovations, and the economic, environmental and socio-cultural sustainability of renewable technologies. We have developed a core curriculum that allows students to learn, analyze and present local or regional bioenergy in the context of regional issues. Environmental engineering and socioeconomical topics are also included in the curriculum as electives. Moreover, students are engaged in research projects in the field of renewable engineering and green chemistry. Research topics include genetic engineering of plants, biomass conversion engineering, upgrade of chemicals derived from biomass, and small-scale biorefining processes.
Upon completion of the program, students can:
- Demonstrate an understanding of the core concepts in renewable resource utilization
- Present and discuss important regional issues relating to sustainable technologies
- Effectively communicate sustainability concepts
- Explore and evaluate the role of bioenergy in regional policy, research and industry.
A major challenge in the development of the program were to construct the educational material at a level appropriate to students from all different majors and backgrounds, while maintaining the interest of, and challenging, all of them. We found that most of the students were not used to working in cross-disciplinary groups, and the material from fields outside their majors was interesting to all of them. Furthermore, their strong commitment to working on solutions for sustainability challenges maintained their interest in pursuing scientific research.