Graduate Student Spotlight: Amira Chowyuk

Amira Chowyuk, standing in front of a gilded countertop and mirror.

Amira Chowyuk is a graduate research assistant in the Biofuels and Bioproducts Lab at the University of Washington – Seattle working under Professor Rick Gustafson. Amira is assessing the feasibility of the construction of a biorefinery in the Lewis County, WA area by conducting a feedstock availability analysis, performing a life cycle assessment of the production of ethyl lactate, and investigating the use of poplars for both biomass and ecosystem services. The idea for this project was derived from numerous data and research obtained from AHB collaborators. Outside of bioproducts and poplars, she enjoys cultural travel, festivals, craft beer, and is currently learning piano.

1.) How did you get interested in science?
I’ve always been interested in the science behind the patterns of the natural environment because I believe that nature presents the foundation for life and connectivity between species and environments. I particularly became interested in renewable energy and fuels while doing an internship in Asheville, NC at the NC Arboretum during undergrad!

2.) What are you working on right now?
Currently, I am working on a feasibility assessment of the construction of a biorefinery producing high-value chemicals in the Lewis County, WA area. Particularly in the assessment, I am focusing on life cycle assessment and mutual benefits of using poplar plantings to provide both biomass and ecosystem services.

3.) We know that poplars are good for more than just biofuels- what’s your vision for future plantings of poplar?
My future vision for poplar plantings and biorefineries is that their design is part of an integrated and collaborative system comprised of other industries and community stakeholders in such a way that allows for regenerative economic growth and environmental sustainability.