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Sustainable Engineering / Women in Engineering: Christine Sednek

July 22, 2013

Christine Sednek exudes a great deal of enthusiasm and has an extremely positive work ethic.  She also has an aptitude for solving complex problems, which has led to the completion of her M.S. in Environmental Engineering and a double major with the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources.  Coupled with her natural disposition as a leader, Christine has established herself a solid foundation that will serve her well as she enters the engineering profession. 

Christine has described her thesis project, overseen by advisor Dr. Michael Urynowicz, as, “an anaerobic microcosm study investigating the feasibility of utilizing plant derived carbohydrates as an alternative carbon source for enhancing the production of biogenic coal bed natural gas. My projects primarily focus on the indigenous microorganisms living within the coal.  We provided them with a food source other than coal: plant-derived carbohydrates including 5-carbon and 6-carbon sugars. The question was: “How would this complex community of microorganisms, including fermenters and syntrophic methanogens, utilize the new carbon source?”  Factors such as pH, organic acid formation, and gas production, were all extensively monitored in an effort to try and answer that question.”  The project was partially funded by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and performed in cooperation with the Center for Biogenic Natural Gas Research, the School of Energy Resources, and the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Her research takes an innovative approach to sustainable energy by combining fossil fuel reserves in the form of coal bed methane (CBM) with renewable bioenergy by using plant-derived biomass to produce biogenic natural gas in methane depleted coal seams.  According to Christine, “in order to fully appreciate the potential of the approach you need to envision the coal seam as an infinitely scalable bioreactor that can be engineered to produce more natural gas that can be recovered using the existing CBM infrastructure.  However, this new gas is slightly different. Since the microorganisms are utilizing biomass instead of coal as the food source what’s produced is a renewable biogas that is essentially closed loop with respect to carbon.  This is especially important with all of the concern over global climate change and the release of green-house gases.”

This week Christine begins employment as an Engineer in Training with one of the Fortune 100’s best companies to work for, Burns and McDonnell, at their corporate headquarters in Kansas City, MO.  Burns and McDonnell is one of the leading design firms in the United States providing engineering, architecture, construction, environmental, and consulting solutions to clients. Their primary markets include; aviation, defense, environmental, and utilities.  The company will provide Christine with the opportunities and experience necessary to define her long-term goals as an engineer.

Christine grew up in Kersey, CO just east of Greeley.  She completed her undergraduate studies at Colorado State University.  Since beginning her time at UW, Christine has served as the president and contributed significantly in the progression of the UW Triathlon Club.  Under her leadership, she and the team competed at the 2012 National Championship in Tuscaloosa, AL.   She has also helped establish the annual “Laramie Duathlon” as the club’s largest event/fundraiser.  This year’s event takes place at 9am, Saturday, September 7at Kiwanis Park.  Additionally, she has served as a mentor with the Office of International Programs working with exchange students as they transition and settle into the culture and systems of the university and the United States.  


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