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Doctoral candidate presents sustainability research at international conference

Friday, September 5, 2014
Doctoral candidate presents sustainability research at international conference

Badrinath Dhakal is examining how the activation of carbon dioxide and its conversion into liquid fuel or fuel precursor has the potential to address issues related to climate change, global warming and declining fossil fuel reserves. 
An Oakland University doctoral candidate was among a select group of students who presented research at the American Chemical Society Summer School on Green Chemistry and Sustainable Energy this July.

Badrinath Dhakal, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences: health and environmental chemistry, was one of 55 graduate students and postdoctoral scholars – and the only student from Michigan – who attended the conference, which was held at the Colorado School of Mines.

The fully-funded conference brought together students from universities in the U.S., Canada and Latin America for a weeklong program featuring presentations by leading experts in the field of green chemistry and sustainable energy. Green chemistry seeks to reduce the impact of chemistry on the environment by preventing pollution and using fewer natural resources.

Research yielding 'intriguing results'

Dhakal presented his project “Electrochemical Investigation of Organometallic Manganese CO2 Reduction Electrocatalysts.” His research examines how the activation of carbon dioxide and its conversion into liquid fuel or fuel precursor has the potential to address issues related to climate change, global warming and declining fossil fuel reserves.

“Conversion of CO2 into any useful products is very challenging and requires a huge amount of energy. We are trying to develop suitable catalysts which would make it possible to use this widely available gas as a feedstock to make valuable chemicals and liquid fuels, and eventually help power the planet without damaging the environment,” Dhakal explained.

“Our research is mainly focusing on the development of earth-abundant transition metal-based electrocatalysts which could efficiently convert carbon dioxide into value-added products. We have already discovered a number of catalytic systems for this novel reaction and gained better insights about the catalytic mechanisms which will guide us in finding better catalysts in the future.”

For the past three years, Dhakal has conducted his research with Dr. Greg Felton, assistant professor of chemistry. Dr. Felton encouraged him to apply to the summer school program and submitted a nomination letter on his behalf.

"Badrinath's long hours in the lab are yielding intriguing results that we will be publishing shortly,” Dr. Felton said. “Further exposure to green and sustainable chemistry concepts will help inform his research, which was clearly a great fit for this summer school." 

Conference exposes researcher to scientific challenges, progress

During the conference, Dhakal also engaged in group discussions, networked with American Chemical Society leaders and collaborated on a problem-solving project with other attendees. He said the experience enhanced his understanding of global environmental challenges and provided helpful insights into his budding research career.

“I got an exposure to the most important challenges we are facing today in terms of environmental safety and sustainable energy development,” Dhakal said. “I learned about how we can contribute as global citizens in addressing scientifically and technically challenging problems and about the progress we have made in solving issues like global warming, climate change, depleting fossil fuel reserves and increasing emission of greenhouse gases.”

In addition to research presentations and group activities, the conference offered informational sessions on topics such as entrepreneurial skills, grant writing and scientific writing.

“The networking opportunities I got will help me be more productive in my research and career endeavors,” Dhakal added.

Founded in 1876 and chartered by Congress, the American Chemical Society is the world's largest scientific society and one of the world's leading sources of authoritative scientific information.

For more information on opportunities in Oakland's doctoral programs in biomedical sciences, visit the website at oakland.edu/chemistry/phd.