Faculty 360 | Nour Abdoulmoumine

Faculty 360 is an all-around look at a UT AgResearch faculty member. In this issue we feature Nourredine (Nour) Abdoulmoumine, assistant professor in Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science. Abdoulmoumine joined UTIA in January of 2015. His research focuses primarily on the conversion of biomass into liquid fuels, energy, and chemicals through the use of thermochemical conversion technologies like gasification and pyrolysis. Abdoulmoumine received his PhD in biosystems engineering from Auburn University. A native of Niger, Abdoulmoumine is fluent in both French and English.

How have your life experiences connected to your career choices?

My decision to pursue engineering began long before college. I have always had a keen interest in science, especially chemistry, physics, and mathematics, but it was really during my sophomore year in college that I became interested in renewable energy. Fortunately, several faculty members working in that area gave me the opportunity to work in their labs. Since then, it was clear to me that I wanted to pursue a career in renewable energy.

What are you reading right now?

I read a variety of genre in both English and French, my native language. I am currently reading two books on and off: Ah si maman savait by Dympna Ugwu-Oju and Le coiffeur de Kouta by Massa Makan Diabaté. Ah si mamam savait is the French translation of What Will my Mother Say, a compelling account of a Nigerian woman who immigrated to America for education. Le coiffeur de Kouta is a fascinating tale of life in the small village of Kouta in Mali, West Africa, in the early days of independence. The central character is a barber, or “coiffeur” in French, who is both funny and eccentric.

What was your favorite college class?

Engineering thermodynamics. I like thermodynamics because it connected and improved my fundamental understanding of several other topics of interest, such as transport phenomena, reaction engineering, and chemistry.

Describe the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career.

How to effectively convey and perhaps convince the public of the importance of renewable energy research, especially as oil prices at the pump fall, as they have been recently. It is an interesting challenge but very rewarding when you can put together the various pieces of the puzzle to show the big picture.

If you had a fifteen-second elevator ride with a Tennessean, what would you tell her about your research?

I would tell her that it is about finding alternative and sustainable uses for biomass, one of the most abundant resources in Tennessee. And if she were interested, I would invite her to visit us and learn more about my research as well as other related research activities at UTIA.

What are the most pressing issues facing your field in the next five to ten years?

How to cheaply convert biomass to biobased products. If we only make biofuels from biomass, it will be hard to compete with the petroleum industry. However, if we diversify our product streams so that, in addition to biofuels, we are deriving chemicals and biobased products from wood, switchgrass, or other forms of biomass, then we have a much greater chance of being competitive. The petrochemical industry has successfully implemented this model where fuels such as gasoline and diesel and a wide variety of chemicals are extracted from crude oil. As a result, it is a multibillion dollar industry. We could have a similar story with a biomass-based biochemical industry if we can generate more and more byproducts from biomass, in addition to biofuels.