Alcorn scientist awarded NSF grant to Research Biofuel Production

Congratulations to Dr. Ananda K. Nanjundaswamy, assistant professor in the School of Agriculture, Research, Extension and Applied Sciences, for receiving a grant of $297,773 from the National Science Foundation for the project titled, "Research Initiation Award – Cellulosic Ethanol Production from Major Feedstocks: Insights from Yeast Transcriptomics." This award starts July 1, 2016 and ends June 30, 2019.

“It was very competitive to get the 2016 National Science Foundation grant. I am very elated that we received it,” Nanjundaswamy said. “This project is very important for Alcorn State University’s biofuel and bioenergy program.”

He further explained: “Global fossil fuel reserves are limited in supply, which means in a few decades we will be running out of it. Imagine not having gasoline that powers our cars. So, finding alternatives to gasoline is essential to our survival, and one of such alternatives is biofuel. Biofuel, basically, is the ethanol produced from corn grain and cellulosic biomass (from wood chip to corn stover) using regular baker’s yeast.”

Considering the importance of biofuel, United States Department of Energy mandated production of at least 36 billion gallons of ethanol by 2030. Over 60 percent of the fuel ethanol comes from cellulosic biomass (corn stover, rice and wheat straw, etc.) However, production of ethanol from cellulosic biomass using yeast is challenging and, according to Nanjundaswamy, “the present research addresses some of the challenges and provides insights into the complex nature of biomass-based biofuel. The research initiative trains next generation of scientists to meet the demands of bioenergy job market and puts Alcorn State University at the forefront of bioenergy research.”

As part of the research initiative, at least four undergraduate students will be trained in advanced biofuel production process. State of the art bioprocessing equipment will be procured for student training. Research collaboration will be established between Alcorn State and Kansas State universities.

Nanjundaswamy said, “The results of our study will help to address some of the bioprocessing challenges of cellulosic biofuel production. Mississippi is one of the top locations for bioenergy feedstock production due to the ideal weather. Accordingly, the research focus on cellulosic biofuel at Alcorn State will certainly attract future industry and academic partners.”

For more information on the project, please contact Dr. Ananda K. Nanjundaswamy at [email protected] or 601-877-2314.