February 02, 2015

Student looks to raise soybean quality for fuel

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- James Anderson came to Southern Illinois University Carbondale from Fort Polk, La. because of Ag Industry Day. That was two degrees ago. He’s a doctoral student here now and a research assistant. 

Anderson wasn’t a traditional fresh out-of-high school student. He had a career as a semi-truck driver before he decided he’d like to try college -- and he kept the job for several years to help him pay his way. 

His experience over-the-road contributed to his current career goals. Anderson said his first years as a truck driver coincided with the initial rise of biofuels. When he thought about college, learning more about biofuels was part of his agenda. 

He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in horticulture at SIU in 2010. His work with herbs gave him the greenhouse experience Khalid Meksem, professor of plant, soil and agricultural systems, needed in a research assistant. Anderson’s work with Meksem centered on sudden death syndrome in soybeans, and contributed research to his master’s thesis. 

He’s still interested in soybeans, and worked with Stella Kantartzi, associate professor of plant, soil and agricultural systems, and lead investigator in the Plant Breeding and Genetics Lab, as a doctoral student. Anderson focused on soybean quality in preparation for his dissertation as he researches ways to improve soybean quality for biodiesel efficiency. 

Earlier this year, he presented some of his research at the National Biodiesel Conference and Expo, held Jan. 19-22, in Fort Worth, Texas. He serves as a co-chair of Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel, a student professional organization affiliated with the National Biodiesel Board to help foster collaboration, networking and career development. 

“Soybeans are the number one biodiesel feedstock, and likely to remain so,” he said. “Right now, we have oil left-over from soybean food production. Using the oil for biodiesel production makes sense, environmentally and economically.” 

Other professional activities include involvement with the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, and the American Society for Horticultural Science. 

Anderson’s future plans are to remain in the laboratory.