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Batten College’s Sandeep Kumar Receives Prestigious NSF Award to Pursue Alternative Energy Research

An Old Dominion University environmental engineer has received a prestigious, five-year award from the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award Program in recognition of his groundbreaking research in algae biofuels.

Sandeep Kumar, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering in the Frank Batten College of Engineering and Technology, will receive five years of financial support totaling $401,315 for his research into alternative energy and nutrients management, and his efforts in STEM education at ODU.

"This is a very exciting award, and I am very grateful to NSF," said Kumar, who came to the university in 2010 after earning a Ph.D. at Auburn University.

Kumar said the financial support will help with some of his educational objectives, including an ODU implementation of the nationwide "K to Gray Energy Literacy Drive" and the creation of an engineering graduate certificate, and undergraduate minor, in energy.

The NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award Program provides five years of financial support for junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. Such activities should build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

Oktay Baysal, dean of the Batten College, said Kumar is a worthy recipient.

"Dr. Kumar is a bright mind in an important, emerging field. He has distinguished himself with his research scholarship, and engaging teaching, during his short time at Old Dominion," Baysal said. The dean announced that Kumar has also been appointed director of the college's Energy Cluster.

Before earning his doctorate, Kumar worked as a chemical engineer in India for 12 years. His passion is to use everyday products and processes to help with the world's energy issues.

"We're trying to replace petroleum as much as possible, reduce greenhouse gases and make fuels that can be produced locally," he said.

Kumar has been hired by several Virginia-based biofuels startup companies that are working on the commercialization of biofuels from biomass or municipal solid waste.

Kumar is also the principal investigator and faculty adviser for a team of ODU engineering students that has earned a spot in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) competition in Washington, D.C., in April. The student researchers will demonstrate a revolutionary algae-processing technique at the National Sustainable Design Expo 2014, where key nutrients are removed from the algae using a proprietary process developed in Kumar's lab before they are turned into fuel.

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