R3NRT – Taking on the Challenge of Sustainable Food, Energy and Water Systems

By Mary Rankin

Moises Gutierrez, doctoral candidate in chemical engineering, has long been motivated in his educational pursuits by the use of microorganisms in improving human life.

Now a member of the second cohort of the Rural Resource Resiliency National Science Foundation Research Traineeship, or R3NRT, at K-State, he is drawing on that influence with his current research project, “The impact of the bacterial inoculants on increased water retention and breakdown of water repellency of agricultural soils in Kansas.”

Working in the Hansen Biointerface Lab in the Tim Taylor Department of Chemical Engineering, Gutierrez’s goal, with his advisor, Ryan Hansen, associate professor of chemical engineering, is to lay the foundation for ways to reduce water usage in irrigation systems, thereby saving water in shrinking aquifers.

Moises Gutierrez, CHE graduate student, working in a lab.


"When I decided to pursue a Ph.D. degree, I thought the R3NRT would be an excellent fit for my career since I’ve largely focused on reducing food waste."
- Moises Gutierrez


“Topics such as use of yeast to transform food waste into fuel, use of bacteria to clean and reverse
pollution issues, and now use of bacteria to increase water retention and breakdown water repellency are all excellent fields to explore,” Gutierrez said.

After completing his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of California at Riverside in 1996, he worked in the food industry in different positions for more than 20 years. In 2016, he decided to pursue a master’s degree in chemical engineering through K-State’s Global Campus, graduating in August 2019.

After a short period of time out of school, he was accepted into the chemical engineering graduate program in the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering, entering directly to R3NRT as part of its second cohort.

“When I decided to pursue a Ph.D. degree,” Gutierrez said, “I thought the R3NRT would be an excellent fit for my career since I’ve largely focused on reducing food waste.

“During my master’s degree studies, I researched converting food waste into bioethanol and mitigating the impact on the environment. Now, R3NRT has allowed me to continue researching ways to protect the environment through the food-energy-waste nexus.”

His long-term plans may involve a shift from the food industry.

“After the completion of my academics goals,” Gutierrez said, “I would like to continue in the field of academics in order to teach new generations about the benefits and importance of making this a better world.”