4 minutes with… Jeremy Withers, Forest Products and Management Center Virginia Tech, Sustainable Biomaterials Sustainable Innovation Management Team (SIM)

May 5, 2015 |

3a7e6e0Tell us about your company and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

Our Graduate student SIM team is focused on:

• Analysis of supply chain aspects affecting the production and sustainability of biofuels

• Identification of drivers and barriers impacting the marketability and distribution of non-food biomass based biofuels

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


Is non-proprietary alternative energy industry collaboration. Thus, strengthening and growing a value added alternative energy industry with reduced environmental impact.


Develop and distribute a questionnaire to answer the following 3 questions:

Research question 1: What is the geographical distribution and operational status of U.S. non-food lignocellulosic bioethanol projects since the 2005 U.S. EPAct?

Research question 2: What are the main sustainability indicators to production of non-food lignocellulosic bioethanol?

Research question 3: What is the industry, academic, and government perspective on the marketability and distribution of byproducts and co-products from U.S. non-food lignocellulosic bioethanol projects?



MY THESIS: Sustainability indicators impacting U.S. non-food lignocellulosic biofuel projects.

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

1) Non-proprietary Collaboration to develop a unified front to drive alternative biomass innovation.

2) Shared infrastructure

3) Feedstock cost reduction

4) A better understanding of reality versus expectation of supply and demand spikes impacting a developing industry.

5) An improved supply chain network for co-products and byproducts

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

Snap: The greater public realization of the importance of an Alternative bioeconomy and global environmental impact. For example: At best if all U.S. bioenergy projects were currently successful we may only be able to generate a fraction our countries future growing energy needs.

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?  

Dedication and Passion to promote beneficial change with Natural Resources.

Where are you from? 

I have spent my entire life as a Hokie through and through growing up in the Blacksburg,Virginia Tech area.

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

Education: Master of Science Degree, Sustainable Biomaterials, Virginia Tech. Blacksburg VA, (Expected, spring 2015). Bachelor of Science Degree, Wood Science Forest Products Business, Virginia Tech.

Who do you consider your mentors – could be personal, business, or just people you have read about and admire. What have you learned from them?

Overall mentors for me, are people that lead with passionate vision instead of leading by management only. My current mentors are the professors that continually share their academic passion to help me strive for academic growth and assist leadership in environmental awareness.

One of my favorite statements:

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Mahatma Gandhi

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

Without understanding the different nature and needs of those I interact with, personal and team growth is impossible. By continually improving one’s emotional intelligence through integrity, understanding, and respect of others, only then can adversity be overcome.

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

Re-purposing old growth wood, and hiking the Appalachian trails. This summer I am traveling to Wyoming and California to accomplish a few of my life’s goals:

– Visit some of the largest trees on Earth.

– Hike in Yosemite National Park

– Hike in Yellow Stone National Park

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

I would want three large blank books and a pen. One for shade, and the other two to occupy my mind by sharing my adventures with others.

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

Harvard Business Review: On Leadership

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

Cozumel, Mexico

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