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Recent Biosystems Engineering graduate named one of nation’s Most Promising Engineers of Tomorrow

Oklahoma State University’s Jonathan Overton, recent biosystems engineering alumnus from Yukon, Oklahoma, was recently honored by DiscoverE as one of 12 of the nation’s most promising engineering professionals of tomorrow in its fourth annual New Faces of Engineering College Edition.
Recent Biosystems Engineering graduate named one of nation’s Most Promising Engineers of Tomorrow

Jonathan Overton

Oklahoma State University’s Jonathan Overton, recent biosystems engineering alumnus from Yukon, Oklahoma, was recently honored by DiscoverE as one of 12 of the nation’s most promising engineering professionals of tomorrow in its fourth annual New Faces of Engineering College Edition.

According to DiscoverE, these students exemplify the vision, innovation and leadership skills that form the foundational elements of a successful engineering career.

Overton said after taking AP environmental science his sophomore year at Yukon High School with teacher Jason Atha, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in renewable fuels and biofuels. He said OSU was the obvious choice because of its strong reputation for their biofuels program.

“I still remember when I first toured the bioenergy lab at OSU,” Overton said. “It showed me just how much investment OSU has in biofuels research. Not a lot of other universities can say the same.”

Overton’s work focused on producing fuel alcohol from renewable feedstock. He spent last summer working on developing new methods for fermenting switchgrass into butanol under the mentorship of Hasan Atiyeh, associate professor for the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

As part of his senior design project this spring, Overton was part of a team of students who were designing systems necessary for a greenhouse on the Martian surface as part of the NASA X-Hab program.

“It’s really been a neat experience to be part of a project this big,” Overton said. “There’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of work goes into it, so it’s exciting but also quite stressful.”

In addition to engineering achievements and pro-social initiatives, the students recognized by DiscoverE also were said to have demonstrated academic excellence and leadership within student organizations, as well as outstanding communication skills and non-engineering related community service.

Overton’s career at OSU is a testament to this description as he served as president of the university’s American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers chapter, worked as undergraduate teaching assistant for six different classes and also found time to help the local Cub Scouts.

However, he said earning this award was a big surprise.

“I’m honestly not your typical, perfect honor student,” Overton said. “I didn’t have an extremely high GPA, and I’m the first male in my family to graduate from college, so the fact that people find my work significant and recognize my work ethic means the world to me. It’s just very rewarding.”

Danielle Bellmer, a food processing engineer and professor in Overton's home academic department of biosystems and agricultural engineering, said she is most impressed by Overton’s scientific curiosity and his desire to learn.

“He truly wants to understand how and why things work, and is less concerned with simply the grade he earns in a class,” Bellmer said. “Young people like Jonathan are going to be the innovators of the future, helping to solve some of the most challenging problems we face.”

She classifies Overton as a "true leader" and said he always chooses service to others above himself. Bellmer added these character traits will make Overton a wonderful addition to the engineering community as engineers work toward solutions for the public good.

Daniel Thomas, biosystems and agricultural engineering department head, said Overton is quiet and thoughtful, leading by example with humility.

“He will continue to make an impact, striving toward practical solutions in whatever he does,” Thomas said.

Overton will begin graduate school at the University of Maine this fall.

“The University of Maine has a nationally recognized research program for converting forest and paper products into fuels and other products,” Overton said. “The scale they do it at is more of an industrial scale, so I’m hoping it will help me transition into industry types of operations and further prepare me for my future career.”

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The OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources believes in the value of hands-on education and the importance of having a well-rounded student experience. Our award-winning faculty members are dedicated to developing students and passionate about adding value to the total educational experience.  With 16 majors and 62 study options, plus more than 60 student organizations, the college is committed to expanding minds and inspiring purpose. Learn more at casnr.okstate.edu


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