Binod Neupane of Dang, Nepal was among the first student cohort to earn a University of Maine Master of Science degree in Forest Resources with a focus on Industrial Ecology, Life Cycle Assessment and Systems Sustainability in May 2011, and was the 2011 recipient of the College of Natural Science, Forestry, and Agriculture’s Outstanding Master Student award. He is continuing his studies in the field as a UMaine Ph.D. student.
Why did you decide to attend the University of Maine?
While I was doing my undergraduate in forestry in Nepal, I always had a desire to pursue advanced studies in alternative fuels produced from forest biomass. Upon completion of my undergraduate degree, I was looking for an opportunity for further study. And I came to know that UMaine is one of the leading institutes in the bioenergy research sector. The reason that I came to UMaine is largely due to its research environment.
Why Forest Resources, Industrial Ecology, Life Cycle Assessment and Systems Sustainability?
Industrial ecology (IE) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) are the tools to look at the impacts — particularly environmental impacts — of a product or product service across its life cycle. I wanted to assess the environmental impacts of bioethanol production using these tools. I chose to pursue further study in this program because the knowledge both in forestry and industrial ecology was very important to me.
What are your future plans?
Currently, I am pursuing a Ph.D. in the same program here at UMaine. I plan to work and research further on sustainability of different alternative fuels in the future.
How did your UMaine experience shape who you are?
UMaine has highly motivated, experienced and research-oriented professors, especially professors working in the field of bioenergy. The opportunity to interact with them and their advanced level of guidance has shaped my research passion.
How has UMaine influenced your life?
UMaine has not only given me the degree, but also the opportunity to expand my career options. It has made me academically sound and professionally competent. I have learned many things from UMaine in the last two and half years. I hope to gain more and more in the rest of my stay here.
What is the most important thing about what you are doing now?
Global climate change, loss of biodiversity and depletion of fossil fuel stocks, etc., are highly discussed topics these days. During my master’s study, I assessed the impacts of forest-based bioethanol production. The important thing about this project was to calculate the environmental burdens of bioethanol and compare them with conventional gasoline. Further, I developed a conceptual methodological framework to account for the biodiversity impact, which lacks in the current LCA model.
Now, for my PhD, I am looking at the overall aspects — economic, social and environmental aspects — of a bioethanol supply chain. I will model how agents involved in this supply chain interact at different levels. This is important to design a sustainable way of bioethanol production.
What is most exciting or rewarding?
The most exciting part of my work is to view the world from a different perspective. For example, the world in a dynamic fashion — in the case of bioethanol supply chain, it generally encompasses interconnected relationships between feedstock production, feedstock transportation, bioethanol production and transportation, and end use of bioethanol. Changes in any one of these components usually create waves of influence that affect the whole supply chain model. By simulating this, it is possible to see how the actors involved in the supply chain interact with each other and how they are interconnected. Interestingly, out of many possible scenarios developed from these interactions, we can choose one scenario that is environmentally friendly, economically viable and socially acceptable — in other words a “sustainable scenario.” This is so exciting and sometimes overwhelming too. Other most exciting and rewarding parts would be sharing ideas among the experts and other like-minded people of this field.
Your most memorable UMaine moment?
There are many, but, I have fresh memories of NSFA Award Banquet program where I received the 2011 Outstanding MS Student Award from the College of NSFA.
Favorite place on campus?
The best part of being at UMaine is it has many good places inside and outside the campus. Personally, I like the Bear’s Den, where you can mingle with others.
While in Orono, I spent too much time … in graduate reading rooms.
Favorite professor or mentor?
All of professors whom I worked with are great, knowledgeable and friendly. They have made remarkable impressions on me. Just to pick one, I like the mentorship of my own adviser, Dr. Anthony Halog.
Class that nearly did you in?
Actually, I liked all the classes I was enrolled in. However, when I was taking my first semester classes I was a bit lost for few days. It was totally a new education system and environment for me.
Best UMaine tradition?
I love the friendly nature of all UMaine faculty, staff and students.
If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have … been an introvert in classes.
Advice to UMaine students today?
In a nutshell, I would say UMaine has a lot to offer so let’s explore!
Image Description: Binod Neupane