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  5. Wisconsin engineer earns presidential award

Wisconsin engineer earns presidential award

U.S. President Barack Obama will honor an outstanding University of Wisconsin-Madison engineer when he recognizes recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers.

Jennifer Reed, a UW-Madison associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, is among 102 recipients of the award, which is the highest honor the U.S. government bestows on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. The honorees will be in Washington, D.C. April 14 and 15, 2014.

Through experiments and computer models, Reed studies photosynthetic microbes such as cyanobacteria. Using what she learns about their metabolic processes, Reed hopes to engineer those photosynthetic microbes to produce the biofuel butanol from sunlight and carbon dioxide. She and her students model and predict the microbe's behavior, determine the best ways to alter the microbe so that it produces certain chemicals, and then engineer that microbe in the lab. Her goal is to develop an "all-in-one" organism that can accomplish everything from CO2 fixation to chemical production. 

Reed also is a researcher in the UW-Madison-led Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. In 2012, she received a $750,000 U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research early-career award to study cyanobacteria for sustainable biofuel production; in 2011 she earned a National Science Foundation CAREER award to develop approaches to learn more about metabolic and regulatory networks in Shewanella oneidensis, a bacterium with applications such as microbial fuel cells.

Renee Meiller