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Graduate Student Spotlight: Chang Dou

Chang Dou

Chang Dou grew up in Yixing in eastern China. As a Ph.D. candidate in Bioresource Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, his work centers on sustainable energy development with engineering, economic, and environmental science. An avid traveler, Chang thrives in the Pacific Northwest hiking, kayaking, fishing, and reading.

How did you get interested in science?

Science solves problems. It leads the technology evolution and changes the world. However, fossil-fuel-dependent development jeopardizes the planet where we are living, causing serious energy and environmental problems. Industrialization, especially in the past 50 years, brought several energy crises and serious climate change. I believe biomass, as a sustainable and carbon neutral energy source, will be the solution in achieving sustainable development.

What specific field you are pursuing?

I am researching the biochemical conversion and thermochemical conversion of short rotation poplar coppice into fuels and chemicals. I am also interested in designing and modeling the conversion process showing how the conversion of poplar to fuels and chemicals can be economically feasible and sustainable.

Why, in particular, are you passionate about that field?

The economic success of a potential biorefinery is directly related to the use of low cost biomass. Due to the high cost, it is unlikely that a wood-based biorefinery would use only whitewood chips from mature trees in conversion. Using a more heterogeneous raw material is less costly, but the efficacy of conversion using whole, short-ration trees (including leaves, bark, branches, and white wood) has not been investigated. The goals of my research are to make full use of the whole tree and maximize the overall sugar recovery and bio-oil yield. Namely, get the most amount of fuels and chemicals from short rotation poplar coppice to achieve better techno-economic feasibility and sustainability of the biofuel process.

Plans after graduation?

I want to keep working in the renewable energy field and make contributions to a sustainable world with engineering, economics, and environmental science. I’m considering, but not limited to, post-docs in academia and research science in industry. I’m also very interested in building international collaborations among biofuel researchers from US and other countries.