An ambitious, University based, USDA sponsored research project investigating
the sustainable production and distribution of bioenergy and
bioproducts for the central U.S.

Listening In with CenUSA

Recently CenUSA had the opportunity to catch up with Tom Binder, Board Chair for CenUSA and recently retired Senior VP at Archer Daniels Midland, and Rachael Ostrem, former CenUSA intern and now new graduate student at Iowa State University.

Tom Binder, Board Chair for CenUSA Bioenergy 

By Ali Lenger 
Tom Binder has served as Board Chair for CenUSA Bioenergy since.  He recently retired as Senior Vice President of Research from Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) where he worked for 29 years. At ADM, Binder helped develop new markets for corn stover, switchgrass, and miscanthus. He also worked with researchers on perennial grass, corn stover and lignin fractions. Although he is now retired, he plans to continue to serve as CenUSA Board Chair and  consult for a few different organizations including the Iowa Corn Promotion Board.

How did you find out about CenUSA before you were a board member? 

Both Robert Brown and Jill Euken asked me to meet with them in Washington D.C., when they were first going in front of the USDA, to be an industry representative to say why CenUSA Bioenergy was an important project.

What did you enjoy most about working with CenUSA? 

Learning more about all the issues that are going to be involved in developing an alternative crop, getting farmers interested, getting the breeding program started to get yield up to where it would be able to compete. 

Also, a lot of the harvesting equipment that would need to be developed and then the entire agronomics around a perennial switchgrass. 

Tell me more about the collaboration project you worked on between CenUSA and ADM. 

The project that I was working on was the corn stover and grasses fraction process. It was about looking for new markets for the lignin fraction that you get from either switchgrass or corn stover.  

Tell me more about your research and development position at ADM.  

A colleague that I went to grad school with was managing a laboratory facility near ADM’s Research Facility. He got me in contact with ADM. You were able to try out your ideas. If they worked, those moved into commercial production.  

Have you always been interested in bioenergy? 

I have been involved with biofuel production over my entire career, looking for alternatives to edible crops to expand what we could produce was an important aspect of research at ADM. 

What would you say to someone who’s interested in joining the board at CenUSA? 

There is a very dynamic group of people working on the elastics of developing a new energy crop. It’s very interesting research. CenUSA benefits from having a wide diverse group of people interacting in that program, so anyone can have a good input into the program. 

Any closing remarks? 

I’ve developed a lot of friendships, and a lot of people that I am really happy to be able to work with. 

Rachael Ostrem, CenUSA Bioenergy Intern and New Graduate Student

By Jake Miller, CenUSA Bioenergy Communications Intern

Rachael Ostrem was a CenUSA intern during the summer of 2015. She is finishing up her undergraduate degree in May and will continue her studies at Iowa State University next year as a veterinary student. Rachael explains how she first got into large-animal research, what she learned during her time with CenUSA, as well as some of her favorite memories of CenUSA.

Where did you do your research as an intern? Who did you work with?

I researched with Dr. Stephanie Hansen and Dr. Daniel Loy and I was in the beef nutrition department in the animal science division (Iowa State University). We specifically worked in Kildee Hall, I worked there when I was doing laboratory work and I would go to the beef nutrition farm north of Ames to do field work.

What about the CenUSA internship appealed to you?

I was looking for a summer internship that was research based with large animals specifically. I applied to the CenUSA internship and another in St. Louis, because I go to college in Missouri, and I was actually offered another internship. I choose the CenUSA internship because it was large animal based, I knew I would get some really great hands on experience and lab experience. I was really excited to be working at Iowa State, where I’d hoped to go to vet school in the future. It worked out that the summer before I applied for vet school I got to intern at Iowa State University and next fall I’ll be attending there as a student.

Was being a large animal vet always the plan?

Yes and no. I had always wanted to become a veterinarian and the more I know about the profession and what I want to do I think that I will concentrate in large animals. I love working with horses and cattle, but I think I want to be a mixed animal veterinarian so that I have a little more diversity and can reach out to more clients. Hopefully someday I’ll have a mixed animal practice but horses and cattle are definitely my favorite. At the CenUSA internship I got to work specificaly with cattle which was really cool.

Favorite part about working with cattle over the summer?

I liked learning the correlation. I grew up with cattle and on a farm with large animals, so I know how to work cows and I know their basic anatomy and all that. It was really cool working at the farm with the cattle and graduate students; learning how the work that’s being done with the cattle at the farm translates through the research and you can work in the lab as well and then you can go back to the farm and make changes or test for new things. So, I think my favorite part was seeing the correlation between the laboratory and the research and actual farm life because I’d never experienced large animal research before, I had only been a part of farm care.

What about your internship helped prepare you for vet school?

Learning more about research. There is such a huge need for veterinarians that go into research work for the USDA, FDA, or CDC. Seeing that through my internship I learned that there are many more opportunities for veterinarians on the research side of things. I actually love research and that grew over the summer working with Dr. Hansen and Dr. Loy. I think the general broadening of my horizons and learning more about research will definitely help in vet school. 

What experience from your internship do you think was the most valuable?

Besides learning how research on large animals is done I think the most valuable thing was networking with professionals that I will probably converse with in my future, especially while I’m at Iowa State. Both the networking and research were super valuable.

Did you learn anything through serendipity? 

With my poster presentation I learned about how not to present data and then because of that how to present data. My actual research and my internship through the summer was very structured because I was jumping into a project so the people I was working with knew what was going on and then we got to find out the end results. So, that wasn’t serendipitous at all, I guess, but learning how to present the data was.

Do you have a favorite memory from the internship?

Every morning the other undergraduates and I would go out to the beef nutrition farm and our PI, Olivia, had a trial going on with sheep. So, every morning we had to go chore the sheep and it was really obnoxious and not fun, but it was kind of fun because we all got to suffer together and laugh together. Just being at the farm I had a lot of great experiences and memories. We had a favorite calf, we named him Big Joe Jr. because he was super friendly and we thought it would be a funny name. Big Joe Jr. is probably one of my favorite internship memories because he was super cute, I took a lot of pictures with him.