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Posted: May 7, 2016 at 5:55 pm

Prof James du Preez is professor of microbiology and former chairperson (2002 2014) of the Department of Microbial, Biochemical & Food Biotechnology at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He obtained his PhD in microbiology from the above university in 1980 after completing a major part of his doctoral research at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zrich, which laid the foundation for his further work in the field of fermentation biotechnology. His special interests include continuous (chemostat) cultures, yeast physiology, the production of heterologous proteins and microbial metabolites, as well as bioethanol production from starchy and lignocellulosic feedstocks, including pentose fermentation by yeasts. The physiology of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is an ongoing interest.

James has authored close to 100 peer-reviewed articles as well as several other papers and book chapters. Involvement with the science community includes membership of the council of the South African Society for Microbiology and the International Commission for Yeasts. He was the American Society for Microbiologys ambassador to South Africa until 2014. He serves on the editorial board of FEMS Yeast Research and was a guest editor for a thematic issue of FEMS Yeast Research on yeast fermentations and other yeast bioprocesses. He was an associate editor for World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology until early 2015, currently is a joint editor-in-chief for Biotechnology for Biofuels and recently served on the Editors Advisory Group of BioMed Central. In 2014 he was appointed external expert on the Biological Production Systems panel of the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research and in 2015 served for a second term on a grant evaluation panel of the European Research Council. Among honours received are election as member of the Academy of Science of South Africa, the award of a silver medal for exceptional achievement from the South African Society for Microbiology and awards from his home university for research excellence.

Dr Michael Himmel has 30 years of progressive experience in conducting, supervising, and planning research in protein biochemistry, recombinant technology, enzyme engineering, new microorganism discovery, and the physicochemistry of macromolecules. He has also supervised research that targets the application of site-directed-mutagenesis and rational protein design to the stabilization and improvement of important industrial enzymes, especially glycosyl hydrolases.

Dr Himmel has functioned as PI for the DOE EERE Office of the Biomass Program (OBP) since 1992, wherein his responsibilities have included managing research designed to improve cellulase performance, reduce biomass pretreatment costs, and improve yields of fermentable sugars. He has also developed new facilities at NREL for biomass conversion research, including a Cellulase Biochemistry Laboratory, a Biomass Surface Characterization Laboratory, a Protein Crystallography Laboratory, and a new Computational Science Team. Dr. Himmel also serves as the Principal Group Manger of the Biomolecular Sciences Group, where he has supervisory responsibly for 50 staff scientists.

Prof Debra Mohnen received her B.A. in biology from Lawrence University (Wisconsin) and her MS in botany and PhD in plant biology from the University of Illinois. Her PhD research was conducted at the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Basel, Switzerland. She held postdoctoral research associate positions at the USDA's Richard Russell Research Center and at the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center (CCRC) in Athens, GA where she won an NIH National Research Service Award for her postdoctoral research. She was appointed to the CCRC faculty in September 1990 and is currently Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and also adjunct faculty member in the Department of Plant Biology and member of the Plant Center at UGA. Dr Mohnen has served on the Committee on the Status of Women in Plant Physiology of the American Society of Plant Physiologists, invited faculty sponsor for the UGA Association for Women in Science (AWIS), past member-at-large in the Cellulose and Renewable Materials Division of the American Chemical Society, and is currently a member of the Council for Chemical and Biochemical Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Division in the Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy. As Co-PI on the NSF-funded Plant Cell Wall Biosynthesis Research Network Dr Mohnen established the originally NSF-funded service CarboSource Services, that provides rare substrates for plant wall polysaccharide synthesis to the research community. Her research centers on the biosynthesis, function and structure of plant cell wall polysaccharides is supported by funding from the USDA, NSF and DOE. Her emphasis is on pectin biosynthesis and pectin function in plants and human health, and on the improvement of plant cell wall structure so as to improve the efficiency of conversion of plant wall biomass to biofuels.

Prof Charles Wyman has devoted most of his career to leading advancement of technology for biological conversion of cellulosic biomass to ethanol and other products. In the fall of 2005, he joined the University of California at Riverside as a Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering with a research focus on pretreatment, enzymatic hydrolysis, and dehydration of cellulosic biomass to produce reactive intermediates for conversion to fuels and chemicals. Before joining UCR, he was the Paul E. and Joan H. Queneau Distinguished Professor in Environmental Engineering Design at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. Dr. Wyman recently founded Vertimass LLC that is devoted to commercialization of novel catalytic technology for simple one-step conversion of ethanol to fungible gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel blend stocks. Dr. Wyman is also cofounder and former Chief Development Officer and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board for Mascoma Corporation, a startup focused on biomass conversion to ethanol and other products.

Before joining Dartmouth College in the fall of 1998, Dr. Wyman was Director of Technology for BC International and led process development for the first cellulosic ethanol plant planned for Jennings, Louisiana. Between 1978 and 1997, he served as Director of the Biotechnology Center for Fuels and Chemicals at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado; Director of the NREL Alternative Fuels Division; and Manager of the Biotechnology Research Branch. During that time, he held several other leadership positions at NREL, mostly focused on R&D for biological conversion of cellulosic biomass to fuels and chemicals. He has also been Manager of Process Development for Badger Engineers, an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of New Hampshire, and a Senior Chemical Engineer with Monsanto Company.

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Biotechnology for Biofuels | Home page

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