National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center offers hands-on experience for political science student

Senior political science major Nasir Almasri will begin a journey in advocacy this semester because of a new opportunity offered by the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center, which is located on the SIUE campus.

Senior political science major Nasir Almasri will work at the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center on the SIUE campus this semester advocating for biofuels.

Almasri, of Chicago, will spend at least the current semester working at the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) gaining hands-on experience advocating to legislators in Springfield about biofuels, which are fuels created from living organisms, such as plants.

Almasri said it will be great to gain experience speaking in front of politicians and public servants in an advocacy role.

“I think that will really be a neat experience that I’m not sure people can get every day…,” Almasri said. “[It will] give me an idea of maybe what part of the political process I would like to be a part of in the future if I decide to go into public service…”

Almasri’s advocacy focuses on two bills in the Illinois legislature – House Bill 165 and Senate Bill 52. HB 165 and SB 52, among other actions, provide “that grants may be awarded for the following programs: a next generation renewable fuels program, a majority blended ethanol and blender pump infrastructure program and a research and development program for sustainable corn production and corn-based renewable fuel production,” according to the bills.

Courtney Breckenridge, director of communications and client relations at the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center at SIUE, said the legislation in the Illinois general assembly is called Consumer Field Choice for Illinois.

Almasri said he will work to inform the senate and house committees assigned to the bills of the importance and “incentive of passing such bills and working to improve fuel choice.”

Biofuels “burn cleaner than gasoline” and are entirely biodegradable, according to, and yield “93 percent more energy than the energy invested in its production.”

The position Almasri has, according to Breckenridge, is a great opportunity for students to learn about “bigger issues relating to biofuels policy.”

“Just even educating and informing the public about why this makes sense,” Breckenridge said. “It’s a great way for a student to gain new skills and learn a little bit more about how the legislative process works.”

The first-hand experience, according to Almasri, will add to his studies by allowing him to relate to what he experiences during his time at NCERC to in-class discussions. Additionally, as Student Government vice president Almasri said he will get “a reflection on how Student Government is to the real deal.”

Almasri said he looks forward to being able to “dive in” and present to legislatures because though “research is great,” he enjoys public speaking.

The opportunity for this “learning experience” came about, according to Breckenridge, when she reached out to political science department chair Denise DeGarmo.

“[Dr. DeGarmo] is a very strong advocate of internships while the students are in school to give them real life professional skills,” Breckenridge said. “So she publicized the opportunity to her students and found a couple candidates she thought would be a good fit…”

Breckenridge said Almasri was “an outstanding candidate.”

“His leadership in Student Government and past legislative experience made him a perfect fit for the project,” Breckenridge said.

The decision to create the position was made earlier this summer, according to Breckenridge, and was only available to SIUE students. The NCERC offers course credit for the position, which is unpaid and did not require any additional funding to create.

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