By Jared Littlejohn
Since being enrolled in the College Park Scholars Science and Global Change program, I have been introduced to areas of science which CORE requirements would have never been able to cover. Ranging from worldwide environment sustainability to personal GHG emissions, my understanding of science has vastly improved. While there was no required class for our final semester in SGC, our requirement was to expand our knowledge hands on outside of the classroom. I specifically chose to spend my time in the generation of natural and physical science. Due to the fact that I am a business major, I chose the one credit, twenty-five hour internship. In particular, I chose the State University of New York School of Environmental Science and Forestry as my practicum site in which I would complete my internship. Within SUNY ESF, I interned as part of the Biodiesel Production Program under Michael Keller. Mr. Kelleher is Director of Renewable Energy Systems at SUNY ESF. I originally came into contact with Mr. Kelleher through my mom, Melanie Littlejohn. She and Mr. Kelleher worked together at National Grid in Syracuse, New York before Mr. Kelleher left there to be part of the Biodiesel team at ESF. Once my mom created the contact for me, I reached out to Mr. Kelleher and spoke to him regarding a possible internship opportunity and what area to focus my internship. After discussing that I am a marketing major in the Business School, we decided that it would be best to research not only the production of Biodiesel but also the economic benefits that it has in general and specifically at the University of Maryland compared to that at SUNY ESF. While my internship was only one week long, I was able to perform various tasks in a short amount of time.
I started my internship off in the on-campus library, researching the history behind the biodiesel production program, its goals, and an entire overview of what biodiesel is, how it is produced, and what its benefits and drawbacks are. After 5 hours of research in the library, I reported back to Mr. Kelleher where I asked him the questions I had about the research that I completed as well as spoke on how to begin using the economic formulas related to production. The next several days I physically produced usable Biodiesel fuel. Beginning with guidance and instruction from Jessica Bohn, a graduate student and the Biodiesel Production Manager, I was able to end my internship producing biodiesel on my own without her help. I began with small-scale production in a laboratory then moved to much larger scale production using the BioPro 190 Automated Biodiesel processor, which was tremendously easier.
From researching the process to physically making biodiesel to cleaning the equipment used, I was able to thoroughly understand an array of information about Biodiesel. While working on the site, I was able to not only speak with the creator of the Biodiesel Production program, Neil Murphy, but I was able to speak with several different leaders in the SURE, Sustainable Use of Renewable Energy, effort on the SUNY ESF campus. Being a specialized institution, I learned that the goal of SUNY ESF as a whole is to advance knowledge and skills to promote the leadership necessary for the stewardship of both the natural and designed environments. The Biodiesel Production Program is just one of several programs on campus which aim to improve the sustainability of our environment. Understanding SUNY ESFs mission made me regret agreeing to only complete a 25-hour, one-credit internship.
Through completing this internship, in my short time I managed to gain an enormous respect for the efforts of those who are doing every thing they physically can to improve the enduring issue of environmental sustainability. This is an issue that needs to be understood by everyone, because his or her efforts cannot do everything. It is a worldwide issue in which every single person is accountable. While my path at the University of Maryland and career path has not changed due to my internship at SUNY ESF, my outlook on life has been reshaped. I understand what I can personally do to help improve the environment and shared this information with my friends and family. Combined with what I learned throughout my time in SGC, I have a greater appreciation for the environment and for the people who work on keeping it green.