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Professor Richard Parnas is awarded UCONN’s 2006-2007 Environmental Leadership Award for the Faculty Category for his extensive work and involvement in the Biofuels Consortium

By: Meghan Burns

UConn’s Chemical Engineering Professor Richard Parnas will receive an Environmental Leadership award on April 24, 2007 from the Environmental Policy Advisory Council (EPAC). This award brings recognition to both the efforts of the University of Connecticut and faculty as the work to develop alternative fuel opportunities and improve awareness on the topic.

Prof. Parnas is quick to credit all those involved in the Consortiums’ efforts. “I consider this award for the University of Connecticut Biofuel Consortium, not for myself personally. One of the most important contributions to the University of Connecticut Biofuel Consortium is the ASTM testing lead by Emeritus Chemistry Professor James Stuart.”

Parnas expresses the importance of this award to all aspects of alternative fuel source opportunities, even beyond UConn. “We are not just making gains in alternative fuel sources at UConn, but we are expanding biofuel research nationwide.”

When asked about the importance of this award and what it brings to the Consortium’s efforts at UConn, Professor Parnas stated, “This award gives the Biofuel Consortium a great deal of visibility.” This brings awareness of the need and importance of alternative fuel sources.

The Biofuel Consortium at UConn is active in developing many aspects of alternative fuel sources. The Consortium has been constantly moving forward in research, development, and production with minimal financial support. This award brings much deserved recognition to the efforts of all those involved in their Biofuel research and production efforts.


If you’d like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Richard Parnas, e-mail Dr. Parnas at RParnas@ims.uconn.edu.

UConn Professor Developed  "Gene-Deletor" Technology To Make Genetically-Modified Bioenergy Plants Safer

Professor Yi Li has developed a ‘gene-deletor’ that may help alleviate public concerns surrounding genetically-modified plants. The technology may be particularly useful to confine genetically altered genes used in bioenergy crops.

For additional information about Li's gene-deletor technology, please google "gene-deletor."

By Beth Krane with modifications

Controlling the flow of transgenic genes into the wild via pollen and seeds has been a huge concern to the public and a major challenge for scientists specializing in agricultural biotechnology.  Professor Yi Li's newly developed “gene-deletor” technology, that can effectively eliminate all transgenic genes from pollen and seeds or other organs, could prevent genetically-modified gene flow from transgenic crops such as bioenergy plants into non-biotech trees or weeds. Many of bioenergy crops, for instance, poplar, willow and switchgrass, are nondomesticated or semidomesticated and thus the gene flow problem can be more serious than domesticated crops like corn and soybean.

UConn’s gene-deletor technology also could allow farmers to produce non-genetically modified edible products, such as seeds, fruits, and flowers, from transgenic plants.

“For example,” Li explains, “herbicide-resistant genetically-modified traits are primarily needed to protect crops during growth prior to seed or fruit development. That way, farmers would get the benefit of the added crop protection during a critical growth stage, without the unintended consequence of an uncontrolled spread of a herbicide-resistant gene, which some believe could create ‘super weeds.’

UConn’s "gene-deletor" also could be used in crops that are genetically modified for the production of pharmaceuticals to block the accidental transmission of these traits into food crops through seed or pollen.

The new technology also holds the potential to end a long-standing debate on so-called “terminator” gene or “terminator” seed technology that has pitted major agricultural biotechnology companies against poor farmers in developing countries. The terminator technology inserts terminator or suicidal genes into genetically-modified seeds to ensure that no genes from genetically-modified crops contaminate non-genetically-modified crops. This process protects the companies’ patents and could alleviate some of the same consumer concerns Li’s technology addresses, but at the expense of poor farmers in developing countries, who would have to buy fresh seeds every year because the terminator gene system renders the genetically modified plants sterile. The terminator technology has yet to be commercialized because of the problems it poses for farmers in developing countries.

“With our technology,” says Hui Duan, one of Li’s former doctoral students and a co-author of the published research, “the seeds the farmers save will not have genetically-modified traits. The farmers would need to buy new seeds each year if they want the crops to have genetically-modified traits such as insect resistance or herbicide resistance. But if they did not want to do so or could not afford to do so, they would still be left with viable seeds to replant.”

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J.D. Stuart boasts 34 years of dedicated service to field of analytical chemistry testing, yielding support and encouragement to UConn’s development of alternative fuel sources

By: Meghan Burns

UConn emeritus professor James D. Stuart’s knowledge and experience in the field of analytical chemistry have brought invaluable expertise to the university. Recently, a state senate bill was proposed to hopefully grant millions of dollars to the development of alternative fuel sources. Should the bill pass and UConn receive an allotment of the funds, Dr. Stuart will continue his involvement and support in the testing of these fuel sources.

Dr. Stuart has been contributing to the Biofuel Consortium at Uconn for several years with little financial support. He ended his tenure as a Professor of Chemistry at UConn in 2003 but has continued to contribute to many aspects of the department. This spring, Dr. Stuart is instructing an FYE class introducing freshman to analytical and environmental chemistry. This class provides students with an opportunity to explore a potential major as well as to inform them on the specifics and benefits of alternative fuel sources.

Aside from his teaching contributions, Dr. Stuart has published over 60 journal articles in his field. He was most recently published in 2007 and specializes in environmental analysis. He spent his time away from the UConn campus as a visiting lecturer at the University of Georgia as well as a visiting fellow at Yale University. His experience as an educator and a researcher assist him in his current position as the head of analytical testing for the Biofuel Consortium.

Dr. Stuart is an integral staff member at the University of Connecticut that contributes valuable knowledge and expertise to several faucets of the University. Most recently, his involvement in the Biolfuel Consortium as an analytic tester has been beneficial in furthering the development of alternative fuel sources.

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If you’d like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with James Stuart, call James at 860/214-1478 or e-mail him at James.Stuart@uconn.edu.