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Graduate Student Spotlight: Kimi Grzyb

Kimi Grzyb

Kimi Grzyb is a PhD student in the Environmental Sciences Graduate Program at Oregon State University (OSU) and is a Graduate Research Assistant for the recently-established Bioenergy minor at OSU. Her doctoral research includes using the Delphi technique to determine the essential components of a college-level bioenergy curriculum. This method surveys experts in multiple rounds to come to consensus about a topic.

Kimi has a Professional Science Master’s degree in Applied Biotechnology from OSU which combined a Molecular and Cellular Biology curriculum with business, communication, and ethics courses, as well as an internship at OSU’s Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing.  Kimi served for 27 months as an Agro-forestry volunteer in a rural village in the Dominican Republic with the United States Peace Corps, and she has also worked as a hands-on science educator in her home state of Connecticut.

What sparked your passion for getting involved in bioenergy?

Spending two years in the Peace Corps with no electricity, running water, gas stoves, or paved roads, and cooking over a wood fire everyday helped me develop an appreciation for where our energy comes from and how convenient it is for us in the U.S. I started my PhD work in a bioengineering lab where I would visit acid mine drainage sites to collect acidophilic bacteria to see how well they functioned in a microbial fuel cell. However, I eventually realized I enjoyed working with people more than my pipette, so I switched from the Environmental Sciences ecology track to environmental education.

What courses have you helped create for the undergrad minor in Bioenergy at OSU?

Introduction to Regional Bioenergy – BRR 350 and Interdisciplinary Research: Bioenergy Focus – BRR 450 which are the two classes required for the undergraduate minor in Bioenergy offered through the BioResource Research program. I have been a teaching assistant for both classes since we began offering them in 2012. I also helped develop BRR 350 into an OSU e-campus online course so that students nearly anywhere in the world can take it.

What role does new teaching technology play in creating bioenergy curriculum?

I’m thrilled the new e-Campus course, taught by Shawn Freitas, a graduate student at OSU in Wood Science Engineering, will allow anyone who is interested in bioenergy to learn more about it. I believe it is important to expose people of all ages to the topic of bioenergy to increase our country’s literacy about the subject, but my focus has been at the undergraduate level with the bioenergy minor students. I strongly believe in the extensive personal and professional benefits to our students that completing an authentic undergraduate research experience of their choice provides.

What excites you most about bioenergy education and the people attracted to this field?

I find it fascinating to witness first-hand the passion of our undergraduate students as they strive to make a difference in the world through creativity and innovation, and showing interest in subjects such as bioenergy. For the minor, our students are required to complete an authentic undergraduate research experience, including writing a thesis and presenting their research at a public seminar, so I have also found it intriguing to learn about their research.