ME student boosts science communications skills with fellowship

ME graduate student Juan Proano Aviles
Juan Proano Aviles (right), a graduate student in the Biorenewable Resources and Technologies program, explains the science of pyrolysis at a public event held at Reiman Gardens in April 2017. Photo courtesy of the Bioeconomy Institute

This article was written by Bob Mills of the Bioeconomy Institute.

Juan Proano Aviles, a student in the Biorenewable Resources and Technologies (BRT) graduate program, has completed a fellowship in Reiman Gardens’ Portal to the Public science communications program. The fellowship provides workshops and mentorships to help scientists and students enhance their communications skills. As part of the program, fellows develop a hands-on activity related to their scientific field and participate in public events to share their knowledge and experience.

“My major professor suggested this program to me,” Proano Aviles said.  “I thought this was an excellent opportunity to improve my skills to share complex ideas in a simple but complete way.” His professor is Robert C. Brown, BEI director. Proano-Aviles will be defending for his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Iowa State University in June 2017. He researches fast pyrolysis ­­­– decomposition at elevated temperatures in the absence of oxygen — and how the technology can be used to turn biomass into fuels and chemicals.

Proano Aviles said the experience helped him organize his ideas to be more effective. “This fellowship made me realize what triggers our interest and motivates us to inquire for more knowledge and understanding of our reality,” he said.

Reiman Gardens held one of its public events in April in which Proano Aviles participated. “I enjoyed seeing people’s interest sparkled, igniting a chain reaction of questions. The visitors took inspiration to go out and learn more about the topics we presented.” Reiman Gardens is a public garden located at the entrance to Iowa State, with a mission to educate, enchant, and inspire an appreciation of plants, butterflies, and the beauty of the natural world.

After graduation, Proano Aviles plans to join his alma mater as a researcher and teacher at the Escuela Politécnica Nacional, a university in Quito, Ecuador. “I want to look into sustainable solutions to problems pertaining the daily life in Ecuador,” he said. “I want to match biorenewable resources and technology with the growing energy and green chemicals needs we have in the region.”

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