Rob also stands out in bringing his research into his courses. Beginning in May of 2008 a group of William and Mary scientists, administrators, and outside energy consultants began to pursue funding to investigate using algal biomass for environmental remediation of the Chesapeake Bay. The consortium includes William & Mary, VIMS, University of Arkansas, University of Maryland, Western Michigan University, and the Smithsonian Institute. Statoil provided $1,000,000 in October of 2009 to evaluate algal growth systems at VIMS (Chesapeake Algae Project or ChAP) and later an additional $2,000,000 for scale-up and analytical studies. An additional $625,000 was provided through DOE appropriation to study growth and natural degradation of algal species. Rob’s role involved the analysis of lipids and carbohydrates in the algae and to find the expertise necessary to dewater and lyse the algal cells. He coordinated with members of the biology department to examine both viral and bacterial processing of algal biomass. At the same time Rob began offering a Freshman Seminar course entitled “Beyond Petroleum as a Fuel” (Chemistry 150W). This class covers a broad range of topics concerning the petrochemical industry. Alternative energy sources are presented as are geopolitical considerations for our current energy infrastructure and its associated costs. One topic, in particular, is alternative fuels and feedstocks. Rob’s involvement in ChAP makes him a world expert in this area. His knowledge and experience in the area are incorporated directly in the course.
Rob's outstanding record with student mentorship and his translation of forefront research directly into Freshman Seminar topics earned him the Jennifer and Devin Murphy Award.