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Chandra Theegala

Chandra Theegala

Associate Professor
Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering
LSU College of Engineering & LSU AgCenter

What was your previous position and where?

I worked as an assistant professor for research on a Department of Energy-funded Samuel P. Massie Chair Program in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Southern University in Baton Rouge. I mostly taught environmental engineering and fluid mechanics courses and did research in the environmental areas.

What brought you to LSU?

I was particularly drawn to LSU because of the research infrastructure at LSU and an environment that is conducive to research. My present position offered me the opportunity and flexibility to integrate my environmental background with alternative energy. On the teaching front, the first semester I was here, I was asked to teach a course in bioreactors, which is one of my favorite areas, as well as the area of my doctoral dissertation.

What is your research interest?

I primarily work in the areas of renewable energy, byproduct utilization and biosystems, or REBUB. In the renewable energy arena, I work in the areas of biomass gasification, hydrothermal liquefaction, microalgal lipids, biofuels, and solar & geothermal energy. I am interested in agriculture byproduct/waste treatment and the generation of value-added products from these resources and wastes. I am also interested in biosystems and environmental areas, and have worked on projects ranging from biosensors to oil skimmers and from wastewater treatment to phytoremediation.

What do you hope to accomplish at LSU?

During my tenure at LSU, I wish to make a significant contribution in the areas of sustainable energy and environment. I am particularly interested in developing sustainable technologies that will help the world to break free from dependence on fossil fuels. My long-term research goal, which appears to be overambitious right now, is to supply green electricity to power the entire LSU campus for at least one day — 30 MWe — using technology developed at LSU. I also want to develop top-notch courses and teaching laboratories in the areas of bioreactors, renewable energy, energy conservation and heat transfer.

What do you enjoy most about LSU?

The primary reason for pursuing an academic career was my interest in conducting innovative research and teaching. Coming from a family of teachers — my father is a university professor, my mother is an undergraduate lecturer and my only brother is a medical doctor and professor — provided me the additional impetus to pursue this career. Although it is time consuming and challenging, I am a very strong advocate of conducting research on custom-built prototypes and bench-scale systems. My present position gives me an opportunity to satisfy my “hands-on” research craving. The flexibility to work in various research areas and alter my research direction as needed is something I appreciate the most. On the teaching front, the feeling of satisfaction that I achieve from imparting knowledge to a student far outweighs the benefits I may have reaped by being employed at a consulting firm or in an industry. This added interest in teaching allows me to devote my full attention and get fully involved in the course/courses I teach. Furthermore, the comments and appreciation in the student evaluation forms — which I keep and cherish — further strengthen and reinforce my interest in teaching.

What are your major accomplishments?

My most recent patent-pending prototype was a field-scale oil skimmer/separator, which was developed in response to the BP oil spill accident in the summer of 2010. After the oil spill, there was a major need for a reliable, cost-effective and energy-efficient oil-skimmer/separator. With the help of two dedicated undergraduate students and two shop personnel, I was able to develop and build a unique and novel oil-water separator/skimmer in a record eight days. This skimmer/separator got national attention including live CNN coverage, National Public Radio, several front page newspaper articles, coverage on several TV channels and on YouTube.

Other notable accomplishments include: 1) a patented biomass gasifier that has a provision for holding a tar-cracking catalyst internally, 2) a 1,700-square-foot green energy demonstration lab that uses geothermal heat, LED lighting, solar heaters, photovoltaic power, inverter-based heat pumps, etc., that was primarily built using undergraduate student helpers, and 3) my doctoral dissertation experimental setup — a 3,000-gallon computer-automated system — and research, which was focused on contaminant mitigation and species control in open microalgal cultures.


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