Campus News

Eminent Scholar will expand bioenergy research efforts

Eminent Scholar will expand bioenergy research efforts

Harry Gilbert, who has worked extensively on carbohydrate enzymes while focusing primarily on how these biocatalysts contribute to plant cell wall degradation, has joined UGA’s Complex Carbohydrate Research Center as the latest Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar.

Gilbert, who comes to UGA from the Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences at Newcastle University, joins faculty in the CCRC who seek to unravel the secrets of cellulosic biomass, a basic component of green plants and a key to the mass production of biofuels. The group’s primary goal is to makeignocellulosic- based ethanol cost-competitive with gasoline, thereby reducing the nation’s gasoline consumption by some 20 percent in the decade ahead.

“The search committee chaired by Professor Michael Adams of the department of biochemistry and molecular biology set a very high bar of recruiting the world’s best scientist working in this area,” said David Lee, vice president for research. “We are all delighted that they hit the mark. Professor Gilbert is a world-class scholar with diverse interests and a highly creative mind. He will add considerably to our bioenergy initiative.”

A native of England, Gilbert earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry and a B.S. in physiology and biochemistry at the University of Southhampton. He worked in a research institute as a biochemist and a microbiologist before entering academia at Newcastle University in 1985. He has conducted research and taught courses in genetics, biotechnology, transgenic animal technology, enzymology, carbohydrate biochemistry and biomedical sciences.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to work with this group of knowledgeable scientists,” said Gilbert. “My research looks specifically at the degradation of cell walls, and I look forward to developing synergistic interactions with colleagues working on other aspects of carbohydrate research.”

Gilbert has published a number of peer-reviewed research articles on the enzymology of plant cell wall degradation and has held several patents on the use of xylanases in the paper industry. Xylanases are a class of enzymes that aid the breakdown of hemicellulose, a major component of the cell wall of plants.

“We are so pleased that UGA has hired Professor Gilbert as a GRA Eminent Scholar in Bioenergy,” said Alan Darvill, Regents Professor and CCRC director. “He brings to Georgia a wealth of knowledge and expertise in understanding the deconstruction of biomass by microbial enzymes that could result in novel methods to produce biofuels.”