Biofuels - Laboratory Intern

Elizabeth is a laboratory intern at Valero Renewable Fuels. She talked to us about her position as an intern working in biofuels.

What biotechnology program did you attend?
Biotechnology at Madison College, Madison, WI

What degree/certificate are you working towards? 

What you do for your job?
I perform QA/QC testing on fermentation processes and products (ethanol and co-products).

What are some techniques that you commonly use?

  • HPLC
  • GC,
  • IC,
  • pH checks,
  • solids testing (dry downs),
  • proof,
  • moisture content of ethanol,
  • dextrose equivalent testing,
  • yeast cell counts

Please describe an average day:
Fermentation process samples occur throughout the day. Each "Ferm" is sampled every 12 hours thoughout its lifetime. The first two samples get a yeast cell count. All those samples get tested for pH, Brix reading, NIR readings, and the temperature is monitored and recorded; these samples also get prepped for the HPLC by filtering.

The ion exchange (IC) is run every day to test for sulfate levels in the 200 proof and final ethanol product. There are samples in between fermentation and product that are sampled once a day, mainly to check for solid levels. Paperwork from all the chromatography results are entered in a computer system, as are the fermentation sample results.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in a biotech career?
It is a career path with so many different outlets and opportunities to choose from. If science is of interest, biotechnology can open many different doors with careers and is also a great pre-cursor for further science education.

Employers and further education professors love hearing I have my Biotechnology degree from Madison College.

  • E. Stahl and testing equipment
  • Some of the lab equipment
  • Working with lab computers
  • The HPLC
  • Measuring pH