Lynsey Talbot - Biodiesel at the Capitol

Lynsey Talbot at Utah State Capitol

USU Student Speaks of Biodiesel at the Capitol – And Barely Makes it in Time

The pursuit of a new source of biodiesel was the fuel that drove USU physical science and composite teaching major Lynsey Talbot to the Utah State Capitol building for Research on the Hill.

“It was really exciting to know I was chosen to present the research, but stressful as well,” said Talbot, because the bulk of the preparation occurring during finals week and cutting short her holiday break.

Talbot’s research with her mentor Lance Seefeldt, professor of biochemistry and a UAES researcher, centers on working with specific bacteria that manipulate genes, then putting them into e-coli and testing their activity. Its purpose is to a produce a substance known as wax ester, a fatty compound which is sometimes used as a lubricant. With the right chemical structure, it can be converted into a biodiesel, thus providing ecological assistance to those looking for alternative sources of powering vehicles. Students Bradley Whalen and Robert Willis are other students who have assisted in the National Science Foundation-funded research.

Seefeldt has been pleased with Talbot’s focus and work ethic throughout the years she has been involved in the biodiesel project.

Vial of biodiesel“She has proven to be a valuable member of our team, with a passion for getting involved in energy research and a tremendous work ethic,” said Seefeldt, who remarked that he enjoys being a part of such research himself because it gives him the opportunity to be so intimately involved with an energy that is so essential to both individual life and broader society.

Talbot simply approached Seefeldt a few years ago with questions as to how she could be involved in the research projects in the department. Seefeldt is glad that students seek out such opportunities.

“If we are going to stay competitive as a nation, then we must train the very best scientists,” he said, adding that it is important for fledging leaders in science to have opportunities to share what they’ve studied. “Lynsey is a great ambassador for our program and we are proud of her.”

Consider the sentiment reciprocated. Talbot was grateful for her mentor’s guiding hand in preparing for Research on the Hill.

“Through meeting and talking, he’s given me direction and encouragement,” she said. “He’s been concerned about welfare and safety in the lab and projects.”

The president of the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) even attended the event to see Talbot’s research and discussed his interest in using the alternative fuel source.

“He said, ‘When you have enough for busses, contact me,’” Talbot said. “He wants to run the busses on the product if the development gets to that point. It was definitely well received.”

Somewhat ironically, bus transportation turned out to be an added stressor on the day of the event. Talbot nearly forfeited the trip after sleeping too late and missing the bus that transported two-dozen USU students to the state capital. She drove to Salt Lake and made another discovery ? parking near the capitol building is a major challenge.

Her experience, she said, allowed her to witness a great variety of research outside the laboratory bubble to which she is accustomed. Among other presentations were explanations of how prosthetic hands are developed and function and investigating ways to understand if mute children can actually understand words spoken to them.

“It was surprising for me to learn of what students can do,” she said. “In doing research I can get tunnel vision. I knew of research in chemistry and biology, but it was interesting to see students working in all kinds of research.”

Lynsey Talbot, Research Fellow, Sandy, UT
Lance Seefeldt, Faculty Mentor, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Writer: Rhett Wilkinson