News and events
Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fuel
A symposium on the Thermochemical Conversion of Biomass to Fuels
Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from some of the top researchers in the area of bioenergy.
Date: August 2 in 102 ATRC
Science: Becoming the Messenger
June 3, 2011 - One hundred and seven researchers, faculty members and public information officers from across the state recently attended the NSF Science: Becoming the Messenger workshop in Norman to learn how to effectively communicate scientific research to individuals outside of academia. The event was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Oklahoma Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (OK EPSCoR) and the National Weather Center.
With funding agencies placing stronger emphasis on broader impacts criterion and researchers competing for a limited number of grant dollars, it is becoming increasing important for scientists to learn how to share the “man-on-the-street” relevance of their research with citizens and legislators.
Cleantech 2011 Workshop to Promote Sustainable Energy-Related Tech Centers
June 02, 2011 - Cleantech 2011 Workshop and Action Summit is a unique combination of events designed to foster and promote sustainable energy-related technology centers. It is hosted by two University of North Dakota-based groups—the Sustainable Energy Research Initiative and Supporting Education (SUNRISE) program and the Center for Innovation. The National Science Foundation EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) program and the Red River Valley Research Corridor Coordinating Center are the primary sponsors of Cleantech 2011.
The event will be held June 19-21 at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. Abstracts for breakout session technical presentations are still being accepted till June 10th. Technical presentations in all areas of clean technology, sustainable and renewable energy, and energy conservation are solicited.
A limited number of fellowships are still available for participants from EPSCoR jurisdictions, minority-serving institutions, and tribal colleges.
DOE EPSCoR Implementation Grant Applications Now Being Accepted
Preproposals due May 27, 2011.
Ethanol Proponents Tout Study Showing No Link Between Biofuel Production and Change in Land Use
May 17, 2011 - Based on what they describe as a "'bottom-up', data-driven, statistical approach," researchers at Michigan State University have concluded that biofuel production in the United States through 2007 "probably has not induced any indirect land use change." The research, conducted by MSU scientists Seungdo Kim and Bruce Dale, is discussed in a paper that will be published in the next issue of the journal Biomass and Bioenergy . The paper was made available online May 13 for a fee.
"Biofuel production in the United States up through the end of 2007 in all probability has not induced indirect land use change," the authors wrote. "There are two feasible dependent conclusions that might be drawn from this interpretation: 1) crop intensification may have absorbed the effects of expanding US biofuel production or 2) the effects of US biofuel production expansion may be simply negligible, and not resolvable within the accuracy of the data."
Supporters of ethanol are delighted with the outcome of this study. One of the groups that expressed their pleasure in the form of a news release was the National Corn Growers Association. "It's time for flat-earth ethanol opponents to back off on land use change," said NCGA President Bart Schott. "Unless they can present clear and compelling data, they need to realize that technology and science are not on their side. We're growing much more corn per acre, and this - along with shifting demands - eliminates the need to significantly increase acreage to meet all needs."
OK EPSCoR Summer 2011 ROA and REU Award Recipients Announced
May 16, 2011 - Four Oklahoma regional university faculty members and eleven undergraduate students from across the state have been selected to participate in the Oklahoma EPSCoR Summer 2011 Research Opportunity Award (ROA) program and the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. The fifteen award recipients and their lab sponsors will perform bioenergy research during the collaborative summer programs.
The EPSCoR ROA program offers regional university faculty members from primarily undergraduate institutions the opportunity to perform summer research in laboratories at comprehensive research campuses in Oklahoma. ROAs enhance regional faculty members’ personal research experiences, while also supporting the development of ongoing collaborations with faculty at the comprehensive research campuses. These collaborations expand and enhance Oklahoma’s research efforts across the state.Click here to read more about this award announcement.
Environmental Microbiology and Biotechnology Summer Undergraduate Course offered at OU
May 11, 2011 - The Environmental Microbiology and Biotechnology Summer Undergraduate Course will be held July 24-August 5, 2011 on the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman.
The program is focused on bringing students from regional Oklahoma universities to the OU campus for a two-week intensive lecture and laboratory experience. Students will be exposed to a multitude of research opportunities on the OU campus, at OU research sites, and other facilities across the state. Sites and facilities that students will be exposed to include the Norman Landfill Research Site, Kessler Farm Field Laboratory, the National Weather Center, Stephenson Research and Technology Center, and the Sam Noble Electron Microscopy facility.
Application deadline: June 18, 2011
OU Students Take Top Prizes in EPSCoR Bioenergy Competition
April 26, 2011 - Three University of Oklahoma students took the top prizes in a hybrid poster competition held recently during the Oklahoma EPSCoR Annual State Conference in Norman. Students who had performed research under the current EPSCoR Bioenergy RII Award were qualified to participate in the contest, which consisted of three-minute oral presentations and a formal scientific poster session. Each portion of the hybrid competition was competitively judged by an independent panel of judges made up of EPSCoR External Advisory Board members.
The three students receiving top honors include Michael Ukpong, Juan Torres and Miguel A. Gonzalez B. Click here to read more about these students and their research.
Million Tadege receives OCAST Plant Science award
March 7, 2011 - OKLAHOMA CITY - Nine applicants for the OCAST Oklahoma Plant Science research program have been approved for funding totaling $955,039 for the next two years. OCAST is the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology.
While nine applicants were successful in their quest for OCAST funding, 26 of the 30 applicants were approved for funding by independent peer review. OCAST’s 2011 funding level for plant science provided funding for the first nine, leaving 17 qualified projects without funding from Oklahoma.
Oklahoma’s investment in plant science is expected to position the state to receive larger federal research awards and make progress in many areas including converting plants to energy and pharmaceuticals, according to Michael Carolina, OCAST executive director.
Million Tadege, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater – The Molecular Basis of Leaf Blade Development in Medicago Truncatula. To improve photosynthetic efficiency, this project will define the molecular function of a gene identified as a key transcription factor, STENOFOLIA (STF), from Medicago truncatula. Identifying the molecular mechanism of STF function will significantly advance understanding of the mechanism of cellular proliferation and differentiation during lateral growth. Award: $100,000
OSU researchers featured for bioenergy research in OSU Research Week promotional videos
EPSCoR bioenergy researchers from OSU are highlighted in the OSU Research Week promotional video. The researchers include Mostafa Elshahed, Department of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics; Ajay Kumar, Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering; Stephen Marek, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology; and Yanqi Wu, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. Click here to view the promotional video for Research Week 2011.
Several OSU faculty members, including Raymond Huhnke, Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering; discuss the various energy research that's taking place on the OSU campus. Huhnke is featured at approximately 2 minutes and 25 seconds into the video. Click here to view the Energy Research video.
From Zeng-Yu Wang of The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation: New lignin 'lite' switchgrass boosts biofuel yield
ARDMORE, Okla. and OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — Bioethanol from new lines of native perennial prairie grass could become less costly because of plant engineering by The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation and fermentation research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers describe their transgenic version of switchgrass as one that produces about one-third more ethanol by fermentation than conventional switchgrass. This improved plant feedstock will be able to generate more biofuel per acre, benefiting not only the transportation sector but also the growers and farming community.
"Recalcitrance, or a plant's natural defenses against insects, fungus and the weather, is widely acknowledged as being the single biggest barrier to the production of biofuel and biochemicals from switchgrass and other lignocellulosic materials," said Jonathan Mielenz, a co-author and member of the Department of Energy lab's BioEnergy Science Center.
For years researchers have sought better ways to break down the plant's defense system, and while substantial progress has been reported, recalcitrance remains a significant challenge.
Despite this obstacle, switchgrass holds great promise as a bioenergy feedstock because it is a native perennial plant, grows with high yields and requires little nitrogen and water. These characteristics made it an attractive target for transgenic improvements.
To achieve their goal, a team led by Zeng Yu Wang of The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Okla., chose to "downregulate" – a process that involves decreasing a cellular component – the caffeic acid 3-O-methyltransferase, or COMT, gene – in the Alamo variety of switchgrass. This change decreased the plant's structural "glue," lignin, by about one-eighth. The scientists chose this gene based on encouraging results of lignin modification from previous Noble research conducted in alfalfa and other plant species.
Related peer-reviewed articles by Wang:
Genetic manipulation of lignin reduces recalcitrance and improves ethanol production from switchgrass. PNAS, January 8, 2011. Click here to view this article.
OSU BioWinol project seeking public input
Jan. 13, 2011 - STILLWATER, Okla. – Oklahoma State University’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources is seeking input from those interested in energy development and advances in related technologies.
OSU graduate students under the tutelage of Mark Wilkins, an assistant professor in the department of biosystems and agricultural engineering, are looking at the viability of using wind energy and carbon dioxide to produce ethanol.
“The BioWinol Technologies process uses sequestered carbon dioxide plus wind energy to generate hydrogen and then converts these gases into ethanol and other industrial products,” said Ray Huhnke, director of the division’s Biobased Products and Energy Center.
Videographer Craig Woods of OSU Agricultural Communications Services worked with Huhnke and the graduate students to create a video outlining the process, which was then placed on the Planet Forward website at http://goo.gl/Ek1A0 as a way to garner input.
Gene discovery could fuel more crop production
Gene discovery by Noble Foundation scientists could lead to better biofuel crops.
Jan. 5, 2011 - ARDMORE - Scientists at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation have uncovered a gene responsible for controlling the density of plant material. The discovery could be used to more efficiently grow crops for biofuels or forage.
Denser plants have more biomass without increasing the agricultural footprint, meaning farmers and ranchers can produce more plant material from the same sized field. “This discovery opens up new possibilities for harnessing and increasing the potential of crops by expanding their ranges of use,” said Richard Dixon, director of the Noble Foundation’s plant biology division.
Huanzhong Wang, a postdoctoral fellow in Dixon’s lab, found a gene that controls the production of lignin in the central portions of the stems of Arabidopsis and Medicago truncatula, species commonly used as models for the study of plant genetic processes. Lignin is a compound that helps provide strength to plant cell walls, basically giving the plant the ability to stand upright. When the newly discovered gene is removed, there is a dramatic increase in the production of biomass, including lignin, throughout the stem.
Stephen Marek awarded $1 million grant
Stephen Marek, Associate Professor with the OSU Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, earned an award with researchers at Virginia Tech and Iowa State University to identify genetic resistance to switchgrass rust and study the pathogen’s population biology.
The USDA-NIFA-AFRI Sustainable Bioenergy Program awarded $1 million to the team for the project that will last from 2011 – 2015. Also on the team from OSU is Carla Garzon, Assistant Professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology.
Yanqi Wu and DASNR researcher team awarded nearly $1 million grant
About the funding: From Yanqi Wu
This award will allow us to study the interactions (i.e. mycorrhizal symbiosis) and related effects of switchgrass root systems and soil organisms on carbon sequestration, nitrogen use and drought resistance. The goal and objectives are complementary and additive to the aims of the National Science Foundation (NSF) bioenergy program.
The NSF funding researchers at Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma and the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation will collaborate to develop molecular tools and discover molecular mechanisms for the improvement and development of dedicated bioenergy crop cultivars. The findings of these studies will allow plant breeders and agronomists to create advancements in the areas of bioenergy feedstock production.
DASNR News Release
Dec. 2, 2010 - STILLWATER, Okla. – There has been a recent push by the United States Department of Agriculture to provide funding for scientists whose main priority is to secure America’s energy future.
One of those scientists is Gail Wilson, associate professor of rangeland ecology and management in the department of natural resource ecology and management (NREM) at Oklahoma State University. She and her collaborators from around the country recently received a $920,000 grant through the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative program for their research related to using switchgrass and other prairie plants as biofuel.
“We will examine the response of different switchgrass cultivars with various management practices and environmental conditions on belowground traits, assessing how we can most successfully enhance carbon sequestration,” said Wilson. “The ultimate goal is to increase carbon sequestration without increasing nitrogen, fertilizer or water use.”
To read the press release from OSU Agricultural Communication Services click here.
DASNR plant breeder Yanqi Wu receives national honor
Nov. 18, 2010 - STILLWATER, Okla. – The National Association of Plant Breeders has announced that Oklahoma State University’s Yanqi Wu is receiving one of its most prestigious honors: The NAPB 2010 Early Career Award.
“Dr. Wu is extremely deserving of this national award, which officially recognizes an individual in the plant breeding field who has demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in his or her research, teaching and collaboration with others,” said Jodi Scheffler, chair of the NAPB awards committee.
An assistant professor of grass breeding and genetics with the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Wu joined the OSU faculty in July 2006.
“Yanqi has been a valued and beneficial presence, helping the division to provide science-based solutions to concerns and issues of Oklahoma’s rural and urban agricultural interests, as well as advancing scientific understanding about plant breeding in general,” said Dave Porter, head of OSU’s department of plant and soil sciences.
To read the press release from OSU Agricultural Communication Services click here.
Learn more about the researchers and this project by viewing our bioenergy videos.