Mar. 28, 2017

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Kalamazoo, MI

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Est. 1877

STEM

Hough Grant Recipient Researches Green Energy Alternatives

Thomas McLravry with Pengchao Hao, the graduate student he worked with over the summer on his project, in front of the MSU Chemistry Building. Photo courtesy of Thomas McLravry. Thomas McLravry with Pengchao Hao, the graduate student he worked with over the summer on his project, in front of the MSU Chemistry Building. Photo courtesy of Thomas McLravry.
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Thomas McLravy, K’16, spent the summer before his senior year experimenting with fossil fuel alternatives in a laboratory at Michigan State, a feat that not every college graduate can boast. McLravy’s project was funded by the Hough Grant, a fund that offers financial support for K students’ Senior Individualized Projects (SIPs).

“At the rate that we’re using fossil fuel we’ll probably run out in the next few decades. What we’re trying to do is to replace them with renewable sources and for my project we focused on biomass,” said McLravy about his SIP.

His project investigated monomers in biomass oil, which regrow at a much faster pace than fossil fuels, making them a more sustainable energy source. The Hough Grant gave McLravy $2,000 for the chemicals and other lab materials along with an additional $4,000 stipend for living expenses while working on the project last summer at Michigan State. The grant money was very appreciated, as it made the project much easier to facilitate, McLravy said.

“This grant really gave me the opportunity to not only conduct my own work but also explain to a non-science community, as it applies to an environmental issue that impacts everyone,” said McLravy, who presented his project at an event open to the whole campus last week.

McLravy applied and was accepted for the grant during the spring term of his junior year after multiple professors encouraged him to do so. The application included a detailed project proposal as well as various letters of recommendation.

While McLravy does not intend on continuing with the biomass work specific to his SIP, he does plan on pursuing his studies in energy and chemistry after graduation.

“This was actually my third stint working in the lab…I really got interested in the work I was doing over the summer. I’ve also taken several classes here on energy and I’m planning on applying to grad school with a green chemistry aspect,” said McLravy.

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