Kevin Dorn // biofuel visionary // class of 2008

Pennycress may sound like the name of a new superfood that all the starlets are nibbling but it’s actually a promising new winter biofuel crop that’s the subject of study for Ph.D. candidate Kevin Dorn (B.S. Plant Biology and Genetics, Cell Biology and Development).

Pennycress has been gaining a great deal of positive attention lately, because it’s a non-food crop that can be grown in the winter as a ground cover, then harvested in time to prep the soil for growing another crop over the summer.

“After graduation, I joined Teach for America and taught high school science for two years in St. Louis, Missouri,” Dorn says. “I’ve been back at the University since 2010, working on my Ph.D. and researching the genomics of pennycress.”

Dorn mentions several significant mentors, including Dr. David Marks, his first research mentor and current Ph.D. advisor. “He pushed me to think beyond what is currently thought to be possible, which is really how science advances,” Dorn says. He also mentions Dr. Jay Hatch. “He gave me my first teaching opportunity as an undergraduate, and has mentored me to continually improve my teaching,” he says.

“As I was growing up, my parents stressed the idea that I should pursue a career that I loved, and everything else would fall into place,” Dorn says. “I'm happy to say that at the start of my scientific career, I'm loving what I do and, indeed, everything else is falling into place.”