Summer internship leads to PhD study in ABE

Lidia Esteve Agelet
Lidia came to Iowa State for a two-month reciprocal internship and stayed to earn PhD in agricultural and biosystems engineering.

Lidia Esteve Agelet, PhD student in agricultural and biosystems engineering (ABE), understands the importance of new experiences. Originally from Lleida in the autonomous community of Catalonia, Spain, Lidia has had the opportunity to gain not only an educational experience different from the one she received in Spain, but also a broader perspective on life.

Lidia attended the University of Lleida, where she received her bachelor’s degree in food processing and agricultural engineering and her master’s in agronomy engineering. While completing her master’s, she came to Iowa State for a two-month reciprocal internship program that Iowa State has with the University of Lleida. As she worked at the agronomy department’s Soil Testing Laboratory, Esteve observed the numerous resources that Iowa State could offer for research and knowledge development. While she studied theory and many other subjects in Spain, she did not have as many opportunities to apply what she was learning to real situations. Her experience at Iowa State had a positive impact on her life—after working in the lab and observing the atmosphere, she found herself wanting to acquire new knowledge focused on practical applications.

As she was conducting research for her master’s thesis, Lidia returned to Iowa State for five months to study tylosin antibiotics leaching through Iowa soils under the supervision of Amy Kaleita and Matthew Helmers, assistant professors in ABE. Her short stays at Iowa State convinced her that there were many opportunities for learning and growing; the campus demonstrated an enthusiasm for learning, innovation, and richness from cultural diversity that she wanted to be part of. After the completion of her master’s degree in Spain in 2004, Lidia, feeling there was still more to learn, applied for Iowa State’s graduate program. In order to familiarize herself with the available technology and programs, she began working on her second master’s degree with her major professor, Charles R. Hurburgh, and was introduced to near infrared spectroscopy (NIR). Her master’s thesis analyzed the permeation of PVC pipes using NIR for which she received the Iowa State University Research Excellence Award in fall 2006.

Lidia currently conducts her doctoral research in the Grain Quality Laboratory, where she works with NIR technologies to analyze corn kernels and soybean grains. Her goal is using imaging NIR to analyze biomass and determine its quality for bioethanol production. Biomass is very heterogeneous, which makes the bioethanol process more difficult to optimize, so being able to determine the biomass composition or degree of heterogeneity can help adjust the production process or classify biomass for other purposes.

Having been at Iowa State for five years, Lidia summarizes her experience as growth in both the professional and personal areas of her life. In her profession, she is learning about technologies and programs that she had never used in Spain, such as Matlab and near infrared spectroscopy. Personally, she is discovering more about her likes and dislikes and is gaining new knowledge of cultural diversity.

Lidia expects to graduate in summer 2010. Because she enjoys teaching and the academic atmosphere, her goal is to someday return to Spain and become a professor, perhaps at her alma mater; however, due to the current economic situation, she will most likely seek a postdoctoral research position to gain more experience and wait for an opportunity in Spain.