4 minutes with…Heather Youngs, Senior Fellow, Energy Biosciences Institute and Executive Editor, Bioenergy Connection

November 19, 2014 |

youngsTell us about your organization and it’s role in the advanced bioeconomy.

The Energy Biosciences Institute explores the application of biology to the energy sector. We have a commitment to improving sustainability of energy systems and bringing modern science to the public discourse on the future of energy.

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

I have two main roles. The first is to evaluate technologies for biofuels and bioenergy in the context of energy security, food security, and long-term economic and environmental sustainability. The second is to act as an “honest broker” to the public, policymakers, and other stakeholders considering bioenergy options.

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

I think the industry needs to continue to show that it has renewable sustainable solutions that are economically viable. The first spate of cellulosic plants need to show they can produce consistent and reliable volumes of fuel. Conventional biofuels need to show they can continue to grow and provide jobs and positive impacts on food security.

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

I would change the perception that the advanced bioeconomy is somehow at odds with conservation and that it is “less green” than other renewable technologies.

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?  

I want to make the world a better place to live.

Where are you from? 

I grew up in rural Michigan.

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

I started out in chemical engineering but switched to biochemistry. I wanted to build things but I wanted to know why more. I went to Michigan Technological University because they let me into the lab, doing my own projects as an undergrad whereas the big schools told me to “wait for graduate school”, an idea I was skeptical I would pursue.

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

My grandparents taught me to have patience, perseverance, and humor in all things. I don’t always manage it but I do try.

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

Lesson Ten:
Listen more than you talk
Everyone has failures
Sometimes it’s not about you
Some situations just suck
Only one fight at a time
Not everything is in your control, but some things are
There are idiots everywhere
Every good girl deserves fudges
Never give up on yourself

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

My hobbies include an untameable garden with perpetually needy fruit trees, an incorrigible mutt, and a wonderfully creative and thoroughly self-absorbed sixteen year old boy.

What 3 books would you take to read, if stranded on a desert island?

I don’t re-read books so I’d go with something useful…KonTiki for inspiration, How Things Work for self-evident reasons, and The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float because Farley Mowat had a great sense of humor and I’m pretty sure mine would need some help after the second week.

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

Just finished The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. Now reading The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

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

I’ll go anywhere there is water but Lake Michigan, north of Traverse City is still my favorite.

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Category: Million Minds

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