Future of Fuels

Monday 1:30 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. - Potomac 5

Dr. Jonathan Burbaum, Program Director, ARPA-E
Dr. Robert Conrado, Senior Fellow, ARPA-E
Dr. Ramon Gonzalez, Program Director, ARPA-E
Dr. William Regan, Fellow, ARPA-E
Dr. Bryan Willson, Program Director, ARPA-E

Dr. Jonathan Burbaum
Program Director, ARPA-E
Dr. Jonathan Burbaum Photo

Dr. Jonathan Burbaum’s focus at ARPA-E is in advanced biotechnology applications for biofuels and the production of biologically-based chemical feedstocks.

Prior to joining ARPA-E, Dr. Burbaum was a San Diego-based biotechnology consultant focusing on realizing value from novel technologies, products, and commercial strategies in the life sciences. He is the founder of two companies, Azure Therapeutics and Gnosys Consulting, and has worked extensively for corporate, venture, and government clients. Before entering consulting, he played seminal roles with two venture-backed startup companies, Pharmacopeia (from inception, through IPO and commercial launch) and ActivX Biosciences (now a division of Kyorin Pharmaceuticals). He began his industrial career at the Merck Research Laboratories in Rahway, N.J. in 1991.

Dr. Burbaum received his B.S. in Chemistry from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1981, and his Ph. D. from Harvard University - where he worked for Jeremy R. Knowles on the energetics of enzymatic catalysis - in 1988. From 1988 to 1991, Burbaum conducted post-doctoral work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Paul Schimmel, focusing on protein structure, function and folding. He received his M.B.A. from the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego in 2009.

Dr. Robert Conrado
Senior Fellow, ARPA-E
Dr. Robert Conrado Photo

Dr. Robert Conrado is an ARPA-E Senior Fellow and is focused on new approaches to produce both liquid fuels and commodity chemicals to reduce the U.S. dependence on imported oil. He is investigating the conversion of natural gas to transportation fuels as well as scale-up of biochemical conversion technologies.

Prior to joining ARPA-E, Conrado completed his Ph.D. in Biomolecular and Chemical Engineering at Cornell University, where he worked in Matthew DeLisa’s protein engineering group. Using tools from synthetic biology, he created novel enzyme systems that improved biofuel production in microorganisms by targeting several approaches to improve the enzyme kinetics of metabolic pathways.

During his Ph.D. at Cornell, Conrado was part of a core team at Innovation Interface that consulted for a Fortune 10 Company for a period of two years. There he analyzed woody biomass supply costs in the U.S. and mapped competing industries to assess the business opportunity.

Dr. Conrado received a B.E. in Biochemical Engineering from Dartmouth College where he worked in the bioengineering lab of Tillman Gerngross.

Dr. Ramon Gonzalez
Program Director, ARPA-E
Dr. Ramon Gonzalez Photo

Dr. Ramon Gonzalez currently serves as a Program Director at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). His areas of technical focus include biological conversion of natural gas and other sources of methane to liquid fuels as well as direct synthesis of liquid fuels from carbon dioxide and energy sources (such as electricity and hydrogen).

In addition to his role at ARPA-E, Dr. Gonzalez is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering and Bioengineering at Rice University, where he leads the Metabolic Engineering and Synthetic & Systems Biology Laboratory. The lab’s discovery that Escherichia coli can anaerobically ferment glycerol, laid the foundation for the development of technologies to convert glycerol to higher-value products. Dr. Gonzalez received the prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career (CAREER) award to conduct research in this area and the 2010 SDA/NBB Glycerine Innovation Research Award from the American Oil Chemists' Society.

In 2007, Dr. Gonzalez co-founded Glycos Biotechnologies, Inc., with the goal of commercializing sustainable chemicals produced from diverse renewable feedstocks. Dr. Gonzalez has published over 50 articles in leading scientific journals and is the lead inventor in four patents or patent applications. He is also Senior Editor of the Journal of Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology and Member of the Editorial Board of Applied & Environmental Microbiology, Applied Biochemistry & Biotechnology, and Food Biotechnology.

Dr. Gonzalez holds a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Chile, a M.S. in Biochemical Engineering from the Pontificial Catholic University of Valparaíso (Chile), and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the Central University of Las Villas (Cuba).

Dr. William Regan
Fellow, ARPA-E
Dr. William Regan Photo

Dr. William Regan is an ARPA-E Fellow interested in novel renewable electricity generation and storage technologies.

Dr. Regan received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of California, Berkeley, under the direction of Professor Alex Zettl. He was named an Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation Fellow and a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow. At Berkeley, Regan helped invent a new class of solar cells that use the electric field effect to essentially “dope” semiconductors. This new cell design has the potential to affordably improve performance for current industrial solar semiconductors and also unlock the potential of many previously off-limits abundant materials for low-cost, high-efficiency photovoltaics. He also investigated the synthesis and application of graphene, a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon with varied and unusual mechanical, electrical, and optical properties. To date, this work has resulted in 15 scientific articles and 3 pending patents.

During his graduate career, Regan was also an active member of the Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative (BERC), serving as co-chair of the 2011 BERC Innovation Expo and as a teacher and curriculum developer for the BERC-sponsored Students for Environmental Energy Development (SEED) outreach program.

Dr. Regan holds an A.B. in Physics from Cornell University, where he experimented with machine learning as a route to flapping wing flight under the direction of Professor Hod Lipson.

Dr. Bryan Willson
Program Director, ARPA-E
Dr. Bryan Willson Photo

Dr. Bryan Willson currently serves as a Program Director at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). His program focus includes natural gas—stimulating new technologies to reduce the environmental impact of production and developing beneficial new uses for natural gas.

Dr. Willson is on assignment from Colorado State University (CSU) where he is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and served as the founding director for CSU's Clean Energy Supercluster, a university-wide initiative to accelerate the development and commercialization of clean energy solutions across the entire university. Willson is founder and co-director of CSU's Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory (EECL), a leader in the study of internal combustion engines, natural gas technology, algae biofuels, intelligent electric grids, advanced building technology, technology for the developing world, and clean biomass cook stoves. For over 20 years, the EECL has been engaged in the development of technologies to reduce the environmental impact of oil and gas production and has developed a suite of emissions-reduction technologies that are now in widespread use on the natural gas pipeline system.

Dr. Willson is active in technology commercialization and is co-founder and board member of Envirofit International Ltd., a nonprofit corporation that develops clean energy technology for the developing world. He is co-founder of Solix BioSystems, which develops large-scale production systems for algae-based products, including biofuels.

Dr. Willson received his B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University and his M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. He publishes in several fields and hold patents in robotics, laser ignition systems, high-powered optics, and algae cultivation systems. He has worked in over 40 countries.