Ragauskas Named Fourteenth UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair

Arthur Ragauskas, an authority in bioenergy, has been named the fourteenth UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Governor's Chair (University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn., USA). He will serve as Governor's Chair for Biorefining, based in UT's Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, with a complementary appointment in the UT Institute of Agriculture's Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries. He will serve in the U.S. Energy and Environmental Sciences Directorate, Biosciences Division, at ORNL and as a member of the Department of Energy's BioEnergy Science Center (BESC). He begins at UT June 1.

Ragauskas comes to UT from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Ga., where he is a professor of chemistry and biochemistry and researcher within the Institute of Paper Science and Technology. This year, he was honored with the Gunnar Nicholson Gold Medal Award from TAPPI and the American Chemical Society's Award for Affordable Free Chemistry.

In 2013, Ragauskas was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and he served as the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Alternative Energy from 2008 to 2009. He was also a visiting fellow at ORNL in 2013, working on a carbon fiber initiative for the lab's Energy and Environmental Sciences Directorate.

Ragauskas's research is important to uncovering ways to convert biomass to biofuels, biopower, and biomaterials. Specifically, his work focuses on converting plant matter such as lingocellulose, found in the cell walls of energy crops, into biofuels. He also works to uncover applications of bio-based chemicals and materials for use in areas ranging from health care to packing material. As a founding member of BESC, Ragauskas served as the lead scientist of the Georgia Tech team researching the in-depth cell wall characterization of pretreated switch grass and poplar biomass.

Ragauskas plans to collaborate with UT students and faculty and ORNL research scientists to develop biorefining research programs. He also looks forward to utilizing resources at UT such as the polymer characterization laboratory and biomass processing facilities as well as ORNL resources like the Spallation Neutron Source and Titan supercomputer.

"The Governor's Chair position leverages the world-class students, faculty, researchers, and research infrastructure at UT and ORNL focused on biorefining and the potential of developing translational collaborative research in this field that will impact the state, nation, and world," Ragauskas said, adding that he aims to establish biorefining laboratories at both institutions.

Ragauskas has served as a program leader for Georgia Tech's focused research program in biofuels, biopower, and biomaterials; a research theme leader at Georgia Tech, Imperial College London, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory; and team leader for the industrial consortium program on Fiber Modification/Fiber Bonding. In 2008, he was nominated to the National Commission of Energy Policy and received the William H. Aiken Research Prize, among other honors for his research and teaching.

The UT-ORNL Tennessee Governor's Chair Program is funded by the state of Tennessee and ORNL. It is designed to attract exceptionally accomplished researchers from around the world to boost joint research efforts that position the partnership as a leader in the fields of biological science, computational science, advanced materials, and neutron science.