To prepare the next generation of bioenergy scientists, the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) provides interdisciplinary research opportunities to graduate students, postdocs, and visiting scientists. Hands-on "Farming for Fuel" lessons educate students in the fourth-sixth grades about a biobased fuel economy. Working with the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee, BESC has reached 100,000 (~20,000 in 2013 alone) students, teachers, and parents nationwide. A free iPad app featuring a Biofuel Road Trip Challenge is available for download under the education category on iTunes.

Student and Post Doc Training

BESC has trained about 50 graduate students and almost 100 postdoctoral researchers who perform research in a multi-institutional and interdisciplinary environment that prepares them for future bioenergy-and research-related jobs. They have opportunities for presentations at BESC retreats and during monthly conference calls to exchange ideas, network, and provide ideas for the scientific management of BESC. Several postdocs have traveled among BESC institutions for research or training. They have also been provided with leadership opportunites including coordinating research and key discussion tasks and organizing and running their own sessions at BESC retreats.

Postdocs and graduate students trained in BESC laboratories receive a unique cross-training experience. Pretreatment engineers learn about the structure of cell walls and how microbes degrade them. Microbial geneticists learn about the enzymology of plant cell wall biosynthesis and biochemistry. Our students will be an important part of the work force for the bioenergy industry and provide leadership for this industry as it develops.

For information about graduate research opportunities in the emerging areas of genome science, proteomics, computational biology, bioinformatics and bioanalytic technologies, see the University of Tennessee Genome Science and Technology program.

To see additional listings of opportunities for students and faculty, visit the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) website ( or contact Lee Ann Hughes ( or call 865-574-7294.

Contact Us

Dr. Janet Wespheling (
Activity Lead for BESC Education and Outreach activities
Genetics Department, University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30622

Visit the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center Education and Outreach Programs website

Partnership with the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga, TN

BESC's partnership with the Creative Discovery Museum (CDM) in Chattanooga, Tennessee, has led to the creation of the "Biofuels Resources, Games and Issues" portal on the CDM website. Visit the site to learn more about biofuels research via news, activities, videos, and games.

Biofuel Road Trip Challenge iPad App

Road Trip Challenge teaches strategies for wise energy use. Students choose and customize a vehicle, then select types of fuel, and travel to familiar destinations across the country. The game also incorporates lessons to explore fuel efficiency, availability, and environmental impact resulting from choices that are made during different legs of the game. Road Trip Challenge can also be used in interactive kiosks in museums and other educational venues. Ask about how your facility can obtain a kiosk for your exhibit area. To see a kiosk in action, visit the Creative Discovery Museum.

Lesson Plans for 4th, 5th, and 6th Grades

In partnership with the Creative Discovery Museum (CDM) in Chattanooga, Tennessee, BESC has taken a novel approach to education and outreach with the development of lesson plans aimed at 4th, 5th, and 6th-grade level students to educate and inform students about the basics of energy production and use, including the carbon cycle, lignocellulosic biomass as a substrate for production of biofuels, and technical and economic obstacles to a biobased fuel economy. These lessons were beta-tested in schools in Georgia and Tennessee and have been made available to schools nationwide.