2021 SUMMER INTERNS: Jackson Stalnaker

Aurora Cooperative 4 months ago

My name is JACKSON STALNAKER, and I am an engineering intern at the ethanol plant this summer. I will be a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying chemical engineering. I plan to graduate in May of 2023. 

In the four weeks I have been here so far, I have learned a ton about ethanol and how the plant works. I have spent most of my time here working with the operations team to help out and learn about various sections of the process at a time. It has been a great experience to be able to learn one section at a time so I don’t just have a ton of information being thrown at me at once. The team has been great at explaining things to me and giving me hands-on opportunities to help out and figure things out. Toward the end of the summer I plan to work on some projects for the plant, but there is still a lot of familiarizing and training to go. 

The first area I focused on once I finished safety training and gained a bit of familiarity with the plant was the front end. A lot of what I did with that was to help collect samples of fermenters, yeast tanks, slurry tanks, and more to gauge how well conversion of sugars to ethanol is going, how the yeast are doing, and how the environment is able to promote fermentation. 

The other area, which I have mainly focused on so far, is distillation. There, we take samples at different points in the distillation process to make sure we are isolating our ethanol to the proper specifications and that we don’t have too much water. We also test our storage tanks to do the same things. We also test the syrup we are producing to make sure it is up to our quality standards. 

My goal for this summer is to learn as much as I can about ethanol production and the plant while being as helpful as I can. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to learn about this industry and gain valuable experience in such a major field of chemical processes. This internship has been great so far, and I am excited to keep learning and helping out more with everything that goes on!