When Cameron Borner was young, he liked to use his toys to fashion his own inventions. His mother called him “a little MacGyver.” Now, entering his third year as a bioproducts and biosystems engineering major, Cameron is energized by the innovation applied to sustainability research.
“It’s almost impossible to be a member of my generation and to be unaware of or indifferent to the severity of the climate crisis,” he says. “Being able to use my skills to help remediate the problems we’re seeing now and make sure that we have a planet to live on for future generations is very important.” Cameron has been able to jump right in the deep end at the University of Minnesota, applying his lifelong passion for science and engineering both in class and in labs.
Q&A with 3M Impact Scholar Cameron Borner, ’25
How did you choose your major?
I was planning on studying chemical engineering with a sustainability focus, because I didn’t realize bioproducts and biosystems engineering (BBE) was available as a major. During my freshman year, I took CSE 1001, a first-year experience course. We did a major exploration exercise, and I found BBE. To be able to find a major that fit so well with what I want to do in life was amazing.
What’s it like to be here?
This program is similar to chemical engineering, but we’re also studying the sustainability aspects and future prospects of where the industry is going. Instead of studying primarily petroleum, we’re looking at how to use fungi, bacteria, or living systems to create or to improve the things that we have now. With the changes that have been happening in the last 5-10 years, it’s a great direction to go in. Now people are looking for employees who are sustainably-minded and who are prepared to help companies grow in the right direction.
What was a highlight for you during the last school year?
Joining the BBE student group “FaBEO,” the Food and Bioproducts Engineering Organization. BBE is a very small major compared to some of the other engineering programs, so I’ve been able to grow meaningful connections with my peers and that really helps with support doing classwork. There’s also a mindset that is shared. We all want to apply what we’re learning about science and engineering to help the world become a better place—we all share that outlook. I’ve never really had that anywhere else.
We all want the best for each other and the best for the people around us–being able to work together to help each other out. I’ve had friends share research and internship opportunities. Because we’re such a small, tight-knit community, I know I’m building lifelong connections.
How has the 3M Impact Scholarship helped?
It’s made coming to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities possible. I come from a lower-income family and I don’t get much financial support from my family. Being able to get that reliable, consistent academic support is really important—it’s the only reason I’m here. Had I not gotten the 3M Impact Scholarship, I would probably be at a different school.
Because it’s 3M, I’ll also have some incredible opportunities to network at scholarship events. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to pursue a career in the field I want to go into.
What are your future plans?
This summer, I’m joining one of the labs in bioproducts and biosystems engineering full time. It’s an undergraduate research position in Professor Ramaswamy’s lab working on a biofuel project—extracting biobutanol.
After I finish my undergraduate degree, I’d like to work in the industry for a while before returning to school for graduate degrees. The innovation in the field is incredibly fast and I want to have time in the field to learn more and discover my niche.
The Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering is jointly affiliated with the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.