Alcorn State University School of AREAS adds KiOR Internship Program

Alcorn State University School of AREAS adds KiOR Internship Program

As the sun rises over the vast Pasadena, Texas landscape, six Alcorn State University students are finishing up an experience that will change their lives forever. Seniors Deshion Madlock, Francis Mwaniki, and Justin Washington, accompanied by sophomores Margaret Normeshie and Gregory West, along with junior Byron Knox, are helping to resolve the country’s foreign oil dependency issues by interning at KiOR Incorporated, a bio-fuel company based in Pasadena, Texas, a suburb of Houston.

In a partnership with Alcorn State University’s School of AREAS, this eight-week pilot internship program taught the students how the company uses alternative fuel sources to make gasoline and other fuel products.

Mr. Clifton Peters, USDA 1890 program manager, discussed the selection process.

“We wanted students who had concentrations in biotechnology, chemistry and agricultural areas. We narrowed down our search to eight students who met the qualifications,” Peters stated.

According to Peters, representatives from KiOR Inc. conducted interviews during an on-campus visit and selected six Alcorn students.

Over the eight-week period, the interns focused on lab safety, making catalysts, and participating in the proprietary process of KiOR’s method of making fuel. The interns worked in the labs with their mentors, and performed high-level experiments, such as ion exchange.

Holly Craig, a research chemist and mentor, praised Justin Washington’s skills during his presentation, “He did a great job and performed this procedure flawlessly and with no assistance from anyone, after we showed it to him only once.”

During their final presentations, with mentors and internship coordinators present, the students expressed how much their internship had broadened their horizons.

“On a scale of 1-10, I would give it a ten because I got to experience a little bit of everything,” Madlock stated.

“The internship was very exciting and challenging. I most definitely would take another opportunity with this company, if offered. The work there is quite demanding, but the field is novel and the experience is exhilarating,” Mwaniki added.

Dr. Conrad Zhang, the director of science and internship coordinator for KiOR, expressed his overall pleasure with the pilot program.

“Before this internship started, I had no idea what to expect, but I am very pleased at how it turned out,” he stated.
Dr. Barry Bequette, dean and director of Land-Grant Programs, School of AREAS, stated, “We are very fortunate to have internship opportunities available to our students. Through internships, our students are able to learn techniques and skills current to the industry, and simultaneously earn money to assist with university expenses while they are learning. KiOR is a state of the art, leading biofuel company, and we are very appreciative of the opportunity provided to our students.”

KiOR, Inc., is excited to bring on interns next year and Gregory West expressed high thoughts on interning to future students. “Every student at ASU should intern as early as possible, within their freshman-sophomore year. It will be very beneficial in the long run.”

For additional information on internship opportunities at KiOR, Inc., please contact Mr. Peters at 601.877.3849 or [email protected] .

2012 KiOR 

Pictured: Six students from the School of AREAS Department of Agriculture recently completed an eight-week internship program at KiOR, Inc., in Pasadena, Texas. At front left, Byron Knox, and Justin Washington. At left standing, Gregory West and Mr. Clifton Peters, USDA program manager. Not pictured: Deshion Madlock, Margaret Normeshie, and Francis Mwaniki.