Hands-on learning and helping the environment has changed one student’s career plans. The student-run University of Kansas Biodiesel Initiative takes the university’s discarded oils and makes the liquid into fuel.


"We can produce upwards of 4,000 gallons a year," said Susan Williams, professor of chemical and petroleum engineering and mentor of the initiative. "We use it for off-road vehicles, like lawnmowers."


Twenty students get together and process the biodiesel. They learn the techniques, and for Leo Budy, an engineering major, they become passionate.


Budy grew up in Kansas City and wanted to work in petroleum, but after discovering biodiesel, and finding potential work opportunities in Kansas, his native state, he changed his goal.


"It has changed my view a lot," Budy said. "It is really a fantastic program at the university."


Earlier this month, Budy was selected to be co-chair of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel. This program, which is formed by the National Biodiesel Board and United Soybean Board for college-level science students, unites budding researchers with established scientists and increases the flow of knowledge.


Budy said he learned an enormous amount of information by doing hands-on tasks at the initiative.


"There’s a huge amount of latitude," Budy said. "We do all of our own testing."


Students can work at their own pace at the initiative and decide what projects they want to work on.


"It gives students an opportunity to use what they learn in a hands-on way," Williams said. "It’s a great way for them to be involved without having a grade."