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Rob Gardner (B.S. 2006, M.S. 2008) began his path to a career in academia and research with his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Biological Engineering from USU. He currently works as an Assistant Professor of Renewable Energy Systems and Sustainability for the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minn. Gardner teaches “Renewable Energy and the Environment,” an online course, to over 400 students.

While at USU, Gardner worked with Dr. Anhong Zhou to develop a microsensor with applications for water quality and heavy metal detection. He worked on his project in a laboratory setting in the microfabrication lab at the University of Utah, an “amazingly unique opportunity,” he said. “Not a lot of research programs allow students to go to other universities or industry. I was able to network and meet new people.”

After completing his master’s degree in 2008, Gardner began a PhD in chemical engineering, and subsequently postdoctoral research at Montana State University. His PhD research delved into the control and regulation of lipid accumulation in microalgae. His postdoctoral research involved phototrophic renewable energy systems and deriving useful products from atmospheric CO2 and nitrogen. Gardner’s current research at the University of Minnesota focuses on microbiology and chemical engineering applications.

According to Gardner, many of the engineering problems that scientists face, such as fuel development, pollution, and chemical remediation are multi-disciplinary. “Having a biological and an engineering background is advantageous,” he said. “The really interesting problems involve biology.”

In his spare time, the Star Valley, Wyo., native enjoys hunting and fishing in the “land of a thousand lakes.”