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Yaad Rana, Humboldt State

Yaad grew up in Humboldt but moved to San Jose State University to attend college as a mechanical engineer major. As global warming made people rethink energy sources and sustainability, he found alternative energy was something he was passionate about and wanted to learn more. Looking for an institution with more expertise in this field, he realized it was back home in Humboldt. Yaad joined the Environmental Resources Engineering program at Humboldt State, and was hired by Dr. Arne Jacobson as a student research assistant in the summer of 2015.

In 1955, 70% of the Humboldt economy was related to the forest industry. Today, the region has much broader economic diversity, but the forestry industry is still a major presence and is evolving into new areas that are focused on sustainability. For example, Yaad explained that the forest industry produces a lot of waste from logging and thinning and usually this is just burned or left to decompose. An alternative is to convert this biomass into useful energy. To that end, Yaad is working on an ARI-funded project that evaluates the efficiency of a small biomass dryer when using different feedstocks (tree species). The dryer reduces the water content removing volatiles and concentrating the energy content of the wood, converting it to a clean energy source that can be burned as a fuel. His analyzes the data from different feedstocks and determines how different moisture content and particle size affect dryer efficiency. Optimally, Yaad said the goal is to replace coal with biomass as an energy source that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Working on this project has allowed Yaad to come into contact with personnel and CEO’s of large forestry and alternative energy industries, which he feels would not have happened if he was not involved in this research. Given the large numbers of undergraduate students in the program and the relatively few research positions open, Yaad said “I feel lucky to have a job where I am essentially being paid to learn; it’s been an awesome opportunity. Working with the staff and professors at the Schatz Energy Research Center makes it obvious that I’m being paid to use my brain as opposed to a service job where I probably would not learn much about what really interests me”. His research job provides opportunities for him to learn outside of class and makes some of the complex concepts he learns in class less abstract when he sees how it can be used – thermodynamics for example. When Yaad graduates he plans to stay in California and work in the alternative energy industry.