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David Chiat

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Say "Bye-O" to Fossil Fuels and Hello to Biofuels: Exploring the Production of Cellulosic Ethanol in the Integrated Undergraduate Laboratory

​David Chiat, Biology Major on the Premed Track

Faculty Mentors

Alenka Hlousek-Radojcic (Associate Professor, Biological Sciences), Mark Baillie (Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry), Jackie Fajardo (Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry), and Anne Terrell (preceptor)


Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Project Description

I am working on developing two biology labs for the introductory integrated biology and chemistry classes. These labs will cover few key concepts of biology (e.g. metabolism, enzyme chemistry, thermodynamics), while also providing an insight intopractical applications of research by focusing on biofuels. Students will use plant-based products (e.g. cardboard, paper towels, maple leaves) as a source of cellulose (fiber) to produce glucose (sugar), which will then be fermented into ethanol. In comparison to current fuel sources, ethanol is a fuel source that is better for the environment. After completion of this lab, students will be able to analyze the viability of ethanol as a renewable fuel source.

David Chiat pipettes a diluted sample so that it can be tested for glucose levels.

Why is this project important to you?

By working on the creation of biology labs, this research has given me the opportunity to have an impact on the learning of future students, whose place I was in less than a year ago. Freshman science majors will be the group of students performing these labs. In addition, this summer has given me the chance to research creating clean-burning and renewable biofuel,which can hopefully provoke students to think about how using biofuels could impact their lives.

How has this project impacted you both personally and professionally?

Researching scientific questions has greatly improved my ability to problem solve. This summer has been a humbling experience because I have seen the work that preceptors and professors do to create labs, design studio activities, and augment the overall learning experience of students. Their efforts and my time in the laboratory have taught me valuable research and teaching techniques along with new ways of learning that will be beneficial when I attend medical school and become a medical professional.

How has the interdisciplinary nature of the work influenced the project?

Although my project is focused on the creation of biology labs, the concepts it introduces (e.g.enzymes, metabolism, energy conversion) are studied by chemists. Hence my goal is to design them to make connections to a Chemistry lab. Developing these labs demonstrates an interdisciplinary effort, because I receive feedback at weekly meetings from faculty members in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.

​David Chiat measures a one gram sample of ground up maple tree twigs, a source of biomass.​

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  • Interdisciplinary Science Learning Laboratories
  • 221 Academy Street, Suite 402
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-6400
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