Triple threat

Joshua Passantino, a triple major pursing degrees in biosystems engineering, chemical engineering and Spanish, has been nominated for the prestigious Morris K. and Stewart L. Udall Scholarship for Excellence in National Environmental Policy. The Udall scholarship was established to provide scholarships to outstanding students who demonstrate leadership, public service and a commitment to environmental issues.

Since fall 2013, Passantino has pursued undergraduate research in chemical engineering using cellulose nanocrystals — a natural high-strength material found in all biomass — to make high-strength films and fibers. Under the direction of Virginia Davis, alumni professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Passantino’s research is focused on mitigating brittleness in films produced from aqueous dispersions of sulfonated cellulose nanocrystals, without negating the benefits of producing them from high concentration dispersions that exhibit liquid crystal phase behavior.

Among his many awards and honors, he was a summer 2015 undergraduate research fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado; president of the Auburn University student chapter of Engineers Without Borders – USA; vice president of the Environmental Awareness Club; Supplemental Instructor in the Office of Undergraduate Studies; IMPACT volunteer; and certified chemical and bacterial tester for Alabama Water Watch.