Bayrock, Cooper receive 2017 FEW awards

By Susanne Retka Schill | June 20, 2017

During the opening session of the 2017 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo, two industry professionals were recognized for their work in the industry, while two at the beginning of their careers were recipients of 2017 FEW Kathy Bryan Memorial Scholarships. Geoff Cooper received the High Octane Award and Dennis Bayrock received the Award of Excellence.

Geoff Cooper, senior vice president of the Renewable Fuels Association, oversees market analysis and policy research, providing regulatory support and strategic planning for the association and its members. Cooper also focuses on issues related to lifecycle analysis, sustainability and ethanol coproducts. Prior to joining RFA, he served as director of ethanol programs for the National Corn Growers Association. Previously, he served as a captain in the U.S. Army, specializing in bulk petroleum supply and logistics. A Wyoming native, Cooper graduated from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and earned his master’s degree at Webster University in St. Louis.

In receiving the award, Cooper praised his colleagues at RFA and the ethanol industry he serves. "I sincerely believe in this industry's mission and everything it stands for," he said. "We've been through some major battlers—the net energy balance debate, MTBE, the RFS, the blenders tax credit, food vs fuel, land use change, numerous trade barriers, the RVP waiver, to name a few. Knowing the character and dedication of the people in this room gives me great comfort that we will continue to succes. And I am just honored to be part of the effort and share a foxhole with all of you."

Dennis Bayrock, the Award of Excellence winner, is global director of fermentation research in the Phibro Ethanol Performance Group and an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota. An expert in microbial contamination in fermentation, he has visited well over 200 fuel and potable alcohol plants in the U.S. and internationally.  

“This year, I’m going to be a part of a select group,” Bayrock said. “It’s very humbling. I still feel, to a certain degree, like a deer in the headlights in this process. I attribute by success not to myself, but to many factors that have guided me through my life.” He thanked specific professors, friends, colleagues and family. “I’m grateful to everybody who has helped me steer my vision for the future.”

Bayrock earned his PhD and taught in the Department of Applied Microbiology and Food Science at the University of Saskatchewan, where he collaborated in a number of fermentation studies with W.M. Ingledew. At PhibroChem, he founded the Ethanol Performance Group Laboratory in St. Paul, Minnesota, which provides state-of-the-art microbiological services such as bacterial contaminant detection and identification, fermentation diagnostics and microbiological forensic services.

Scholarship Winners

This year, two plant employees are getting a boost in their continuing education, receiving $2,000 each as recipients of Kathy Bryan Memorial Scholarships.

Blake Baron has been working as the environmental, health and safety manager at DENCOII in Morris, Minnesota, since 2015. In the fall, he’ll be headed to Columbia Southern University in Orange Beach, Alabama. “At 34, I’m getting a late start in finishing my formal education,” he wrote in his application. He was a college freshman at Georgia Southern University when Sept. 11 happened, which prompted him to enlist in the U.S. Navy within the year. Before moving to Minnesota, he worked as a safety professional in the oil and petroleum industry in west Texas.  

Cassandra Schneider is the lab manager at Kansas Ethanol in Lyons, Kansas.  She will be pursuing a master in agribusiness from Kansas State University, where she earned a bachelor of feed science and management with a biofuels emphasis in 2012. As a mother of three, it took a couple of years to decide to go back to school. “The curriculum in agribusiness excites me and can be utilized however my career advances within the realm of agriculture and the ethanol industry,” she wrote in her application. “I have an interest in ethanol feed coproducts and their effect on animal health. I feel there is a lot left to learn on the feed side and am excited to dive in.”