Florenal Joseph

Agronomy – Class of 2002

HELP alum Florenal Joseph is pursuing a Master’s degree at Brooklyn College and participated in the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Bioenergy Review in 2010.

HELP: Can you tell us about your current research using algae as a source of fuel?

Florenal Joseph: Conventional biofuels are harvested from corn-based crops for ethanol, and rapeseed or palm for oil. However, food costs are rising because farm land is used to produce biofuels instead of food. Microalgae is a large and diverse group of organisms – they exist in a wide range of habitats from fresh to hyper-saline water and low to high temperatures, and they have much higher biomass and oil productivity than other plants. This makes them a plentiful, viable and potentially better source of biofuel than land-based crops.

HELP: What is the Air Force Bioenergy Review?

FJ: The AFOSR organizes an annual conference in which the directors of AFOSR-funded projects present their work. As an Assistant Researcher on one of these projects, I did a poster presentation on our research.

HELP: What did participation in the review mean for you, as a researcher?

FJ:This conference is really well-fitted to what I’m doing. I learned a lot from the other scientists who were at the conference. Moreover, it helps me to have a broader view on cultivating microalgae for not only biofuels, but also to learn about the use of microalgae by-products.

HELP: How can you apply what you are researching to the further development of Haiti?

FJ: Scientists in Haiti are working on alternative biofuels – I know of one major investor involved in the production of biodiesel using the Jatropha plant. It would be even better if we could have more. I have a lot of ideas about building a biotechnology center in Haiti to help my country move forward. I am so grateful to learn all the techniques here in United States, but it would be interesting to apply these techniques in the most needy areas; and Haiti is one.

HELP: What HELP resources do you feel have helped you in your Master’s program?

FJ: My story is not new to HELP. This organization not only helped me achieve my dream of an education, but today they are providing scholarships to the most needy and intelligent students in Haiti. Now, while I am finishing my Master’s, I am in the process of applying for my PhD. This dream would not be possible without HELP.