A Graduate Laboratory Course on Biodiesel Production Emphasizing Professional, Teamwork, and Research Skills


  • Silas J. Leavesley University of South Alabama
  • Kevin N. West University of South Alabama


In this article we report on the use of a graduate “Special Topics” course to provide vital research and practical laboratory experience, within the context of developing a chemical process to manufacture biodiesel from algal sources. This course contained several key components that we believe are necessary skills in graduate research: 1) a literature survey, 2) research plan, 3) laboratory procedure and protocols, 4) technical writing, 5) presentation skills, and 6) teamwork and research interdependence.

Author Biographies

Silas J. Leavesley, University of South Alabama

Silas Leavesley is an assistant professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of South Alabama. Silas holds a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Purdue University and a B.S. in chemical engineering from Florida State University. His research focuses on the application of spectral imaging techniques to ex vivo and in vivo biological samples and the development of novel optical diagnostic tools.

Kevin N. West, University of South Alabama

Kevin West is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of South Alabama. He graduated with high distinction from the University of Virginia with a B.S. in chemical engineering and received a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Kevin’s research interests include the design, synthesis, and characterization of novel, task-specific ionic
liquids, functionalized aerogel synthesis, and biofuel development. His teaching responsibilities include both undergraduate and graduate thermodynamics, freshman engineering seminar, and special topics courses.