Benjamin R. Johnston '07 has won the Texas Greenovation Contest, a competition that seeks to inspire entrepreneurs, students, and business owners to design green business ideas. Entrants were asked to present ideas that minimize waste and maximize sustainability, and pay for themselves within five years. The first place award comes with a number of funds and services to commercialize his proposal.
Johnston's proposal incorporated a novel design for a modified microbial fuel cell, which alters how food-processing companies and sewage treatment plants handle organic waste. He first worked on this technology at Hamilton with fellow biology major Neal Frei '07 under Professor Michael McCormick's tutelage. Later, Johnston worked for a start-up company to commercialize microbial fuel cells. After leaving that company to pursue graduate work, he came up with a new design which became his submission. Along with scaled drawings, and a business plan, Johnston was asked to pitch the proposal to five investors, whose vote determined the winner. Among all contestants, Johnston was the only student. Johnston is currently a PhD student in the biomedical engineering program at UT Arlington / UT Southwestern Medical Center.
Johnston credits Dr. Gordon Jones (Physics), Dr. John Adams (Communications), Neal Frei '07 (Biology), and especially Dr. Michael McCormick (Biology) for providing him with the teaching and mentorship that enabled him to win. "This award is directly attributable to their incredible guidance and teaching. I think about their efforts on my behalf often, and am eternally grateful. Neal and I constantly reminisce about how lucky we were to work with Professor McCormick. He is a professor that delivers on the mission of the college every day, and to his credit, he does it all with humility and patience – Hamilton is incredibly lucky to have him."
At Hamilton, Johnston majored in biology with a pre-medical focus and was Vice President of the Student Assembly, Chairman of the Honor Court, President of the Ornithological Society, and a member of the first team from Hamilton to reach the Mock Trial National Tournament.