STARKVILLE, Miss.–The director of Mississippi State University’s Dave C. Swalm School of Chemical Engineering is taking on an additional role with the land-grant institution.
Earnest W. Deavenport Jr. Chair Jason Keith will lead the MSU Energy Institute, which is administrated jointly by the Office of Research and Economic Development and the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine.
“I see my teaching and research background in energy and materials as complementary to the mission of both the department and the Energy Institute,” he said.
Keith sees a bright future for energy-related research.
“I anticipate additional energy-related opportunities for the university, including traditional energy sources such as petroleum and coal, as well as fundamental and applied research in materials science and engineering for alternative energy — methods such as bio-based, solar, battery, fuel cell and wind applications,” he said.
“Furthermore, our state has a large number of natural resources that can contribute to improving people’s accessibility to energy, and these need to be explored. All of these topics are strong areas for MSU faculty and staff,” Keith added.
Energy is one of Mississippi State’s primary research priorities, according to its chief research officer.
“MSU-led research and innovation are making a difference in how we utilize our state’s natural resources to meet global energy needs. Our researchers are at the forefront of developing new technologies, as well as enhancing existing products and processes, to meet these challenges,” said David Shaw, vice president for research and economic development.
“We are pleased that Dr. Keith will be leading the institute into a new chapter,” he said.
Shaw’s counterpart agreed.
“Agriculture is the largest segment of our state’s economy, and our natural resources are significant assets in the growing market for sustainable and renewable energy,” said Greg Bohach, vice president for agriculture, forestry and veterinary medicine.
Keith — Swalm’s director since August 2011 — is taking the institute’s helm from veteran faculty member and administrator W. Glenn Steele, who retired from MSU as William L. Giles Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering last year.
“We appreciate Dr. Steele’s ongoing service and commitment to leading the institute through this very important transition,” Shaw said.
According to Steele, the EI was created in 2008 to provide a mechanism to coordinate large-scale, interdisciplinary energy research at the university, to encourage scientists and engineers to work together on energy projects, and to provide an atmosphere to exchange ideas and develop creative solutions for complex energy challenges.
“The EI is working with state and regional companies to commercialize technologies that have been developed, especially in the area of biofuels,” Steele said.
The institute is a critical component of Mississippi’s energy economy, he added.
Keith echoed that assertion.
“Over the last few years, the physical facilities of the institute have been assembled to take work developed in bench-top reactors and scale up these processes to an intermediate, or pilot scale. This scale serves as an intermediate to full production. In fact, there are many industries in the state and the region that may benefit from the availability of this pilot scale equipment,” he said.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Akron in 1995, Keith defended his chemical engineering doctoral dissertation at the University of Notre Dame in August 2000. That same year, he joined the faculty of Michigan Technological University as an assistant professor. He earned tenure and promotion to associate professor in 2006, and full professor status in 2011.
His research uses mathematical modeling to improve air quality and energy efficiency through the applied fields of reactor design and alternative energy. Keith also had spent time studying, evaluating and implementing faculty development programs. He is an active member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the American Society for Engineering Education.
Keith and his wife, Salvadora, live in Starkville with their children — Andrew, Maria, Isabel and Sophia — and a chocolate Lab named Pennant.