College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Former student returns to Iowa State as a faculty member

The Department of Mechanical Engineering is welcoming a familiar face back to campus. Former student Mark Mba Wright is re-joining the department, but this Mark Wrighttime as a faculty member.

Wright graduated from Iowa State in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering as well as one of the first master’s degrees awarded in biorenewable resources and technology. He then spent a summer researching at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, before returning to Iowa State to earn a PhD in mechanical engineering and in chemical engineering.

Throughout this time, he researched biomass and how to convert it into a fuel that is compatible with vehicles on the road today, working closely with Robert Brown, Anson Marston Distinguished Professor of Engineering, Gary and Donna Hoover Chair in Mechanical Engineering, Iowa Farm Bureau director of the Bioeconomy Institute, director of the Center for Sustainable Environmental Technologies, and professor of mechanical engineering, chemical and biological engineering, and agricultural and biosystems engineering.

Wright also worked with W. Ross Morrow, assistant professor in mechanical engineering, researching the economic impacts these technologies would have on society.

In 2011, Wright took a position as a postdoctoral student in chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where his research again involved biomass. His focus turned toward opportunities for improving fossil fuels with biomass energy in a sustainable and environmentally conscious manner.

Working with William Green and Yuriy Roman, Wright investigated integrating biorefineries with conventional refinery technologies. He also studied converting biocompounds into fuels and chemicals, and was able to incorporate what he knew about economics and biomass to further strengthen his research.

After a year and a half at MIT, he pursued a position at Iowa State and was more than eager to join the faculty this fall as a tenure-track assistant professor.

“I’m really passionate about biomass and our energy future,” says Wright. “There was no doubt in my mind that Iowa State was going to be a great place for me to work with leaders in this field as well as to contribute my own expertise toward how we can develop alternative energy sources.”

During his first semester, Wright will be teaching an introductory course as well as developing biosystems analysis courses for the college that will be available in the near future. He will also be continuing his research by expanding upon the foundation he set while completing his PhD and imagining technologies for a fossil-free energy future.

Moving to Ames with his wife and newborn son, Wright looks forward to raising a family in the community. “Having our family grow in Ames is very appealing,” says Wright. “The community has a lot to offer, and we look forward to being a part of it.”