4 Minutes With…Seema Singh, Director- Biomass Pretreatment, Joint BioEnergy Institute

September 28, 2014 |

Seema Singh picLast week we profiled JBEI and Sandia legend Blake Simmons — now we get a chance to profile the other half of JBEI’s biomass deconstruction dynamic duo, Seema Singh. If you’ve been thinking about investigating ionic liquids as a pretreatment strategy — well, that’s some of JBEI’s signature work.

Perhaps unsurprisingly for someone who spends her days thinking about new ways to brew biomass into higher-value products — it’s worth noting that she’s has a cooking hobby, in addition to tossing off Shakespeare quotes like no big deal.

Tell us about your organization and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

Advancing Science & Technology for advanced biofuels and chemicals from lignocellulose and algae and co-evolution of fuels and engines.

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

In my role as director of biomass pretreatment, I am leading the R&D efforts on advancing efficient, affordable and scalable pretreatment technologies that are compatible with both upstream and downstream processes/unit operations and also developing catalytic and hybrid processes for lignin conversion to renewable fuels and chemicals.

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?

Path forward for lignin conversion to valuable chemicals. This is the only way to make equation work for replacing petroleum derived fuels and chemicals with biomass derived renewable fuels and chemicals. Also replacing PAN based carbon fiber with low weight renewable carbon fiber to further improve vehicle efficiency.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change?

Putting aside our biases and joining hands in advancing bio-economy and green revolution. Feedstock availability and logistic and carbon tax.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?

Environment and energy security.

Where are you from? 

I was born and raised in UP, India, known for Tajmahal-the place of one of the seven wonders of the world and Cradle of Buddhism.

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway? 

Who do you consider your mentors? What have you learned from them?

Blake Simmons: Trust in others ability, outreach and work ethics.
Jeff Brinker: Love for Science and work ethics.
Melinda Gates: Philanthropy
Jack Houston: Love for innovation, energy and work ethics.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?

Shakespeare said it best and I found it to be true:
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry? 

Traveling, cooking and reading.

What are 3 books you’d want to have with you, if you were stranded on a desert island?

The Myth of Sisyphus,
Einstein’s Universe,
Complete Idiot’s Guide to Surviving Anything.

What books or articles are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?

Dear Life- just completed.
The Sirens of Titan- started.

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?

Interlaken, Switzerland.

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Category: Million Minds

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