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University of Guelph Names Premier's Research Chair in Biomaterials and Transportation

5 July 2007

A renowned Michigan State University professor will be joining the faculty of the University of Guelph as the Premier's Research Chair in Biomaterials and Transportation.

Prof. Amar Mohanty, an international leader in the field of biomaterials, was selected following an international search. He will assume his new position this fall.

U of G was awarded the $3-million Premier's Research Chair as part of the Ontario Research Chairs program, which was established to create a culture of innovation and to strengthen Ontario's economic advantage.

“We are absolutely delighted that Dr. Mohanty is joining the faculty of the University of Guelph,” said president Alastair Summerlee. “We are grateful to the province for endowing this chair, which will create a culture of innovation in this field both at Guelph and in the province, and strengthen Ontario's economic advantage.”

Biomaterials is a fast-growing research area that focuses on revolutionizing the use of agricultural products to develop novel products for industrial uses, ranging from car parts and building materials to fuel.

Mohanty's research focuses on developing biobased materials and biofuels, which he calls “the wave of the future,” to provide sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based resources. “This is an appropriate time for a ‘biobased economy' to be explored in the context of depleting petroleum resources, global warming, greenhouse gas emission, growing environmental threats and national security," he said. “Biobased materials, biobased chemicals and bioenergy are the major requirements to establish a bioeconomy."

His ultimate goal is to facilitate a transition to a biobased economy by providing a foundation of economic and environmental sustainability for the materials industries, especially the automotive sector.

Prof. Alan Wildeman, Guelph's vice-president (research), said U of G is renowned in the agricultural and life sciences, and Mohanty's expertise "will now enable this capacity to be bridged with opportunities in the industrial bioeconomy.”

Mohanty is the author of more than 200 publications, including 129 peer-reviewed journal papers; founder and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Biobased Materials and Bioenergy ; and lead editor of the book Natural Fibers, Biopolymers and Biocomposite. He has four U.S. patents and more than 20 patent applications pending.

An accomplished researcher and holder of the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship in Germany, he was also the recipient of the 2006 Andrew Chase Forest Products Division Award from the forest products division of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

“We are thrilled to have such a pre-eminent authority joining Guelph to lead and collaborate our efforts in this field, reaffirming Guelph's role as a global leader in innovative agriculture,” said Prof. Mary Buhr, interim dean of the Ontario Agricultural College. "Dr. Mohanty's presence in the Premier's Chair will focus attention on agriculture's newest gifts to the world: green renewable bioresources to replace non-renewable materials in many consumer goods and services.”

As the Premier's Research Chair, Mohanty will encourage the innovation of new cost-effective biobased consumer products and technology, and will liaise with government, industry and other universities. He will engage in and support interdisciplinary research in chemical and structural engineering, agricultural chemistry, plant biology, and traditional and molecular plant breeding.

He will also serve as director of the new Bioproducts Discovery Centre, a facility planned for the southeast end of campus that will be the hub for the University's bioproducts research.

Mohanty will be joined at Guelph by his spouse, Manju Misra, a professor in Michigan State's Composite Materials and Structures Centre who has strong expertise in nanotechnology and biobased materials research. Misra will hold a cross-appointment in U of G's School of Engineering and OAC.

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