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Forest Biomaterials Joe Sagues Awarded Prestigious U.S. DOE Fellowship

Joe Sagues, a NC State University PhD student in the Department of Forest Biomaterials, was awarded a fellowship from the Department of Energy Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) Program on a project titled, “Overcoming Lignocellulose Recalcitrance to Improve Catalytic Graphitization for the Advancement of Bio-Based Energy Storage Materials.”

His research is aimed at developing a new biomaterial for use in lithium-ion batteries. More specifically, he is converting low cost biomass, such as saw dust, into a graphitic anode material.

Joe is advised by Dr. Sunkyu Park who adds, “This is the most prestigious award that a graduate student can receive from the U.S. Department of Energy, which will cover all expenses during Sagues’ stay at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Joe is very passionate about biorefinery research to produce bioenergy, chemicals, and high-value materials. It is in my opinion that Mr. Sagues has the talent and experience to become a truly outstanding scientist and engineer.”

Joe says his career goal is to “conduct high level research at an R1 University or National Laboratory.” and he believes “this experience will provide opportunities that bring me closer to achieving this goal.”

He first chose the Department of Forest Biomaterials for graduate studies because “Drs. Sunkyu Park and Hasan Jameel are renown experts in the field of biomass conversion engineering, which is the filed I would like to become and expert in. Our department is a world leader in bioproduct research and development.”

In addition to the DOE Fellowship, Joe has interned at the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) as a 2018 Technology-to-Market Scholar and the ACS Green Chemistry Institute as a 2019 Summer Scholar.

Joe’s advise for future graduate students is to learn to expect and welcome failure. “During my MS research at the University of Florida, I learned that nothing works in the beginning, and persistence is key.” He adds, “I’ve been fortunate to have had the experience of scaling up an advanced biofuel technology, which ultimately didn’t succeed due to multiple reasons, but the experience molded my character and provided a skillset I cherish today.”