Ross Ryskamp, a mechanical and aerospace engineering doctoral student from Woodbridge, Virginia, was awarded a STEM Mountains of Excellence Scholarship from the Office of Graduate Education and Life at West Virginia University.

The scholarships, valued at $5,000, are awarded to incoming doctoral students planning to engage in research in one of the following Mountains of Excellence areas: achieving international leadership in radio astronomy, utilizing shale gas, promoting stewardship of water resources, improving science, technology, engineering and math education and scientific literacy, and eliminating health disparities in Appalachia.

“Winning this award is a great honor for me,” said Ryskamp. “I take a lot of pride in my academic achievements and I’m very excited to accept a scholarship in shale gas utilization given that it falls directly in line with my current research interests.”

Ryskamp will be researching how shale gas can be utilized in internal combustion engines efficiently and in an environmentally responsible manner. He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from WVU, where he focused on various facets of engine performance and exhaust emissions. Now, he is researching an advanced combustion mode called reactivity controlled compression ignition, which substitutes natural gas for a portion of diesel fuel while limiting harmful exhaust emissions.

His recent research projects include developing and calibrating a dual fuel natural gas/diesel retrofit system for heavy duty diesel engines, developing a modern spark-ignited natural gas fuel injection system and performing EPA certification of light-duty bi-fuel (natural gas and gasoline) vehicles.

Gregory Thompson, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, nominated Ryskamp. Thompson, who researches fuel additives to reduce the environmental impact of fossil fuel, is Ryskamp’s research supervisor.

“Ross is driven to improve internal combustion engine efficiency while balancing environmental implications from emissions. He not only puts in the effort to learn and understand the experimental procedures but also becomes the ‘go-to guy’ for other students,” said Thompson. “This scholarship is a great recognition of his past performance and future contributions.”

“I am most excited about the future and growth of new research opportunities concerning natural gas combustion and exhaust emissions from internal combustion engines,” said Ryskamp. “I believe the abundance and relatively recent boom in natural gas production in the Marcellus Shale region will help to expand research in this field and lead to wide-spread use of natural gas as a transportation fuel. This award will help to ease some of the financial constraints that accompany graduate degrees and will allow me to focus on my dissertation research.”