Myra Afzal COE’20, who will graduate from Northeastern with a dual BS/MS in chemical engineering this May, has earned a grant from DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service, to spend a year researching sustainable alternatives to petrochemicals in Leipzig.
Petroleum is currently the basis not only for many fuels, but also for a wide array of necessary and valuable chemicals and materials. As the Oil Age begins to wane, Myra says, it is critical that we find new, sustainable, renewable sources for these products. One promising avenue of investigation involves using bacteria as an alternative source for chemical production. Myra will spend a year collaborating with the Microbiology of Anaerobic Systems (MiCAS) Laboratory at the Helmholtz Institute of Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig to develop a novel reactor that performs solid-substrate fermentation (SSF) for bacterial growth. She plans to compare the efficacy of multiple solid substrates, like corn and sawdust, for use in a potential bioreactor.
Myra’s global research experience includes a co-op at Italy’s Univeristà degli Studi di Cagliari, where she worked on a project involving microalgae, and another at Kula Bio, where she designed an optical sensing system for microbial growth detection.