Chemistry for the greater good

Daniel Howell
Credit: Iowa State College of Liberal Arts and Sciences News

Daniel Howell (’24 chemistry) always knew he wanted to be a scientist. But with so many scientific avenues to pursue, how would he choose? The answer became clear in high school.

“When I took chemistry sophomore year of high school, everything just made sense. I really liked it. I’ve always been interested in what things are made of,” Howell said.

Howell didn’t have to look far for a top-notch undergraduate chemistry program. Located only about an hour from his hometown of Cumming, Howell enrolled at Iowa State in the fall of 2020 as a chemistry major.

Researching opportunities

Once on campus, Howell wasted no time digging into the numerous research opportunities Iowa State offers. As a freshman, he participated in the First-Year Honors Mentor Program, where he paired up with Professor of Chemistry Wenyu Huang. Early in his college career, he also received a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s High-Impact Award for Undergraduate Research. Then, in 2023, Howell received a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.

Of the research he conducted on campus, Howell was most impacted by his work with the Institute for Cooperative Upcycling of Plastics (iCOUP), a Department of Energy research center that comprises numerous institutions across the nation, including Ames National Laboratory. iCOUP’s goal is to uncover new ways to upcycle plastics. To that end, Howell’s undergraduate research focused on developing a new catalyst that can upcycle the most common class of plastics – polyolefins – into things like motor oils, diesel fuels, and jet fuels.

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