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Graduate Students

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UW students developing new technologies for enhancing the production of biogenic natural gas Christine Sednek at a sampling trip at Black Hills Power, Gillette, WY
Christine Sednek
Engineering has always intrigued me. Solving how to meet the resource needs for communities and populations is what I plan on being apart of for the rest of my life. Perhaps growing up on a farm in Kersey Colorado has engrained in me the importance of this through animal management: growing their food, supplying water, and providing regular maintenance. Through the support of my Mom, Dad, and two wonderful sisters, I felt comfortable going into this intensive field of study where I began to focus my studies toward energy resources and utilizing microbiological systems as the medium. Anaerobic digestion is an important process that has vast potential for being an energy resource. After the research undergraduate project through my studies at Colorado State University Environmental Engineering, I really found respect for these organisms that I can’t even see! We tested and calculated the methane potential for combined carbon extensive industry waste of Greeley Colorado.

Today I am finishing my Masters of Science in Environmental Engineering under the advisement of Dr. Michael Urynowicz. Our project is working on the performance of microbial systems within coal bed methane seams in the Powder River Basin Wyoming. My project is analyzing the ability the syntrophic consortia have in degrading carbon wise substrates, which are derived from plant cellulose and hemicellulose. We have defined our substrates into 5-carbon and 6-carbon sugars to feed the complex sytrophs of the microbial colonies within the coal. Extensive monitoring of pH, organic acids creation, and gas production, will allow us to better understand the methane potential for biostimulation of coal bed methane reservoirs with these substrates. Further, this will elongate and boost the mined methane fields in order to provide cleaner energy for our populations. Long hours and challenging work definitely describe my physical input toward the project, but I always have found time to enjoy leading the University of Wyoming Triathlon Club as a hobby. Our successful season has qualified us for the National Championships April 2012, which we are ecstatic about.

Zaixing Huang Zaixing Huang
Zaixing Huang
Zaixing Huang is a Ph.D. student working with Dr. Michael Urynowicz in the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering, University of Wyoming. He earned an M.S. in environmental science from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. He also has a B.S. in biotechnology from Harbin institute of Technology in Harbin, China. His research currently focuses on secondary biogenic coalbed natural gas production from low rank coal.

Coal is an abundant fuel resource in the United States. Compared to coal, natural gas burns cleaner. The research during the passing decade has confirmed secondary biogenic coalbed natural gas can be generated within a relative short period of time in coal seams. However, the bioavailability of coal carbon could be one of the most important factors that limits the generation of secondary biogenic coalbed methane. The on-going research project investigate the pretreatment of coal using various treatment agents including chemicals and fungal enzymes and deploying biometer (CO2) and anaerobic respiratory (CH4) as tools to evaluate the carbon bioavailability. The research may have important ramifications in the generation of fuels from coals.

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Yanrui Ning in the Snowies Yanrui Ning in the Snowies
Yanrui Ning
Yanrui Ning is a M.S. candidate working with Dr. Urynowicz. She obtained her BS in petroleum engineering at the China University of Petroleum in Qingdao, China.

Yanrui’s research focuses on the generation of biogenic methane following the enzymatic assay of Wyodak coal. After characterizing the fungus that was extracted from Wyodak Coal and could depolymerize coal, she will assess the in vivo and in vitro enzymatic solubilization of Wyodak Coal, followed by quantifying coal derived compounds for methane production using microorganisms that are native to the coal.


Previous Graduate Students

Balamurali Balu, M.S. in Environmental Engineering
Jessi Morris, M.S. in Environmental Engineering
Umamaheshwari Udayasankar, M.S. in Environmental Engineering
Brian Story, M.S. in Environmental Engineering
Mohan Dangi, Ph.D. in Geography and Environmental Engineering
Chris Schultz, M.S. in Environmental Engineering
Shashidhar Belbase, M.S. in Environmental Engineering
Florence Kothapalley, M.S. in Civil Engineering