Dan Ruddy ’03, researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory
By Bryan Hay
Electric vehicles are on the rise, but a portion of the transportation sector will continue to rely on liquid fuels for some time.
Dan Ruddy ’03 (chemistry), a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is developing new chemical processes for the conversion of biomass and similar waste carbon sources into renewable versions of the fuels we use today.
“The efficient utilization of carbon sources, other than fossil-derived carbon, is paramount to meet these liquid fuel needs in an environmentally conscious and sustainable way,” he says. “The renewable processes we seek to develop can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 60%, and often more than 80%, compared to typical fossil-derived fuels.”
For Ruddy, motivation comes in many forms in the R&D world, from the day-to-day excitement of tackling the latest research challenge to the big picture goals of developing technologies that can be deployed industrially.
“But often, the most motivating and inspiring aspect of my work is the people that I get to work alongside,” he says.”Through the years, we’ve assembled a top-notch team of researchers from around the globe, and our research group is 100% focused on renewable energy technologies.
“When you get this type of mission-driven group together, the enthusiasm and passion is contagious, and the resulting motivation and inspiration goes through the roof,” Ruddy adds.
He says his STEM education at Lafayette “set the rock-solid foundation” that has supported his career.
“I majored in chemistry, and through the EXCEL Scholars program I was able to participate in three different research areas—analytical chemistry, organic chemistry, and inorganic chemistry—providing a strong background in the field,” Ruddy says.
That mix allowed him to follow his interests to minor in mathematics and take a few engineering courses in his senior year, which, in hindsight, gave him the fundamental knowledge to speak fluently with his current engineer colleagues.
“Moving from the tight-knit community of Lafayette to graduate school at a large university across the country was a huge change, but I knew my professors at Lafayette had prepared me for that transition,” Ruddy says. “Even now, I still use a few textbooks from classes at Lafayette.”