Featured DRI Graduate Students

Kathryn Bywaters, Jan. 2013 Featured DRI Graduate Student

Meet Kathryn Bywaters, an Environmental Science student working on her Ph.D. at UNR. Her current work focuses on utilizing microalgae and cyanobacteria consortia as a potential source for biofuel production.

What brought you to DRI?

kathryn-bywaters-smlKathryn BywatersThe opportunity to work at a world-renowned institute with some of the brightest minds in their fields. I knew I wanted to work with Dr. Christian Fritsen when I heard about the exciting work that he was conducting and his strong affiliation with the space community.

What are you studying? What research projects are you working on? And who at DRI are you working with?

I’m currently working on my Ph.D. in the Systems Microbial Ecology Lab (SMEL) under Dr. Christian Fritsen. My current work focuses on utilizing microalgae and cyanobacteria consortia as a potential source for biofuel production. Native consortia are being collected from local, high temperature environments and evaluated for the purpose of biomass, triacylglycerides and free fatty acid production. Microalgae and cyanobacteria have been proposed as a potential carbon neutral biofuel source. Experiments are being conducted to determine the net CO2 uptake by consortia under natural light from the fall and winter solstice.

What are your short-term and long-term goals while at DRI?

My long-term goal while at DRI is to obtain my Ph.D. My short-term goal is to contribute to and learn from the unique academic environment DRI offers. I am excited about the possibility of adding to the scholastic achievements already obtain by both the SMEL laboratory and DRI. Not to mention, that there is a wealth of knowledge in the DRI faculty and staff that will aid in my success after graduate school. 

Tell us about yourself. What do you do for fun?

I believe that it is important to balance both analytical and creative interests. My creative interest has always centered on writing. At a young age I fell in love with writing and was determined to complete my first novel. Now, as I pursue my academic career I try to never lose sight of my creative endeavors. 

What problem in the world troubles you most? And if given the chance and unlimited resources, how would you solve it?

The world today faces many great problems: hunger, genocide, and slavery to name only a few. To conquer these challenges we, as a people across all nations, need to be reminded of our infinite potential to overcome adversity. The histories of civilization are full of people who have accomplished great deeds against great odds, inspiring and giving hope to all humanity. It is imperative to focus on the positive aspects of our nature; take pride is our accomplishments and push ourselves to even greater heights. 

One of man-kinds greatest adventures is still ahead of us - space exploration. Space exploration allows for collaboration, across not only scientific disciplines but, across nations. A multi-national effort for a manned missioned to the Moon or Mars would foster good-will and hope for the future. The advancement of civilization is spurred by new scientific discoveries and the fortitude to take on new problems; this is what I would strive to accomplish with unlimited resources. 

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