June 2010

ASBMB Teams up with Brazil on Biofuels Workshop

A beach in Ubatuba, Brazil.
Photo credit: Carla Pintor.


Biofuels are big business in Brazil. Combining an abundance of sugarcane, a willing government and recent technological advancements, the production of ethanol-based fuels is re-emerging as a major economic driver of this South American country. And, certainly, their recent agreement with the United States to share alternative fuel technologies and strategies has been a positive development as well.

In a reflection of that U.S.-Brazilian partnership, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is teaming up with the Brazilian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SBBq) and the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology to present an advanced course on the biochemistry of biofuels, to be held September 25-October 3 in the Brazilian coastal city of Ubatuba.

Although the complete itinerary still is being finalized, this intensive one-week course is poised to feature a group of top level U.S. and international scientists discussing fundamental biofuel-related research topics; Areas that will be covered include sugar metabolism, cell wall biology,  synthetic biology and the impact of biofuels in the developing world.

“Our goal is not to simply have scientific presentations,” notes ASBMB Past-President Bettie Sue Masters, one of the principal organizers of the event. “We plan on having detailed and interactive workshops that really explore the basic science behind biofuels, including potentials and limitations.”

The course will be open to up to 40 young researchers (no more than 5 years past Ph.D.) from around the world who already work in a biofuel-related field or are interested in joining this field of research.

The idea for this course germinated during conversations between Masters and SBBq President Debora Foguel, following a visit by Masters to give an invited lecture at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Advanced School on Biochemistry of Biofuels

Lecture Topics:
• Sugar metabolism and  bioethanol production
• From cell wall biosynthesis to lignocellulosic ethanol
• Synthetic biology and custom-designed products
• Impact of biofuel production in the developing world

Doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows and young researchers (no more than 5 years out of graduate school) are eligible to apply. Proficiency in English is essential. Deadline is July 1, 2010.
Click here for more information.

The pair then gathered colleagues from both societies and the IUBMB to create an international advisory board, including another ASBMB past-president, Judith Bond. “Judy had made expanding Pan-American initiatives one of her goals during her presidential tenure a few years back, unfortunately, due to various circumstances it didn’t quite work out,” says Masters. “Now, though, it seemed external forces were working in our favor, and she’s been instrumental in helping set this course up.”

The program organizers believe this course on biofuels will help foster new contacts between scientists from numerous countries and entice more promising young scientists to enter this important – and global – field of research.

Down the road, the advanced course in biofuels is envisioned to be just the first part of a three-year (and hopefully beyond) cooperative commitment between these North and South American societies (as well as the IUBMB); future programs may include a larger, joint scientific conference as well as student exchange programs between U.S. and Brazilian labs. ASBMB and SBBq also hope that other scientific societies in the Americas will join this cooperative effort to create a full and vibrant Pan-American initiative. 

Nick Zagorski (nzagorski@asbmb.org) is a science writer at ASBMB.

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