Blake Joyce, graduate student in the Department of Plant Sciences, successfully completed his MA project on fern biotechnology and then made a significant leap into biofuels for his PhD work in the area of plant molecular genetics. During the past three years, Blake has published several papers, including an invited review paper on biofuels that was published last year online in Biotechnology Advances. In addition, he has been an invited speaker to several international conferences and received competitive funding fellowships to attend these meetings. In just the past 12 months, these include meetings in San Diego, CA, Raleigh, NC, and Vienna, Austria.
For Blake’s PhD project, he has literally searched the world for plants that produce compounds that have the appearance of gasoline and diesel fuel. These include the diesel tree (Brazil) and the petroleum nut (Philippines). He has worked to fund his own research and travel, including being the motive force of a $80,000 Science Alliance grant to work with ORNL researchers to analyze the fuel characteristics of these plant compounds, a $30,000 Sun Grant project on lemongrass and palmeroso with a University of Wyoming professor, and most recently a $100,000 award from UTIA that pulls together a great number of researchers from the Philippines to Palestine and also a private company to pursue the genomics and biochemistry of these unique fuel producing plants.
We want to understand exactly how these plants produce compounds that look like gasoline and diesel so we can transfer those properties to bioenergy crops that can be grown in Tennessee.
C.B. Zehnder, K.W. Stodola, B.L. Joyce, D. Egetter, R.J. Cooper, and M.D. Hunter. 2009. Elevational and seasonal variation in the foliar quality and arthropod community of Acer pensylvanicum. Environmental Entomology 38: 1161-1167.
F. Chen, H. Al-Ahmad, B. Joyce, N. Zhao, T.G. Kollner, J. Degenhardt, C.N. Stewart. 2009. Within-plant distribution and emission of sesquiterpenes from Copaifera officinalis. Plant Physiology and Biochemistry 47: 1017-1023.
J.N. Burris, D.G.J. Mann, B.L. Joyce, and C.N. Stewart. 2010. An improved tissue culture system for embryogenic callus production and plant regeneration in switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.). Bioenergy Research 2: 267-274.
B.L. Joyce, H. Al-Ahmad, F. Chen, and C.N. Stewart. 2011.Chapter 24. Diesel trees. Pp. 615-625 in C. Kole, C.P. Joshi, D.R. Shonnard, R. Tressider (eds); Handbook of Bioenergy Crop Plants, Taylor and Francis.
M. Mazarei, H. Al-Ahmad, M.R. Rudis, B.L. Joyce, and C.N. Stewart. 2011. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) cell suspension cultures: establishment, characterization, and application. Plant Science, 6: 712-715.
D. Mann , Z. King, W. Liu, B.L. Joyce, R. Percifield, J. Hawkins, P LaFayette, B. Artelt, J. Burris, M. Mazarei, J. Bennetzen, W. Parrott, C.N. Stewart, Jr. 2011. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) polyubiquitin gene (PvUbi1 and PvUbi2) promoters for use in plant transformation. BMC Biotechnology 11:74.
B.L. Joyce, and C.N. Stewart, Jr. 2011. Designing the perfect plant feedstock for biofuel production: Using the whole buffalo to diversify fuels and products. Biotechnology Advances, doi:10.1016/j.biotechadv.2011.08.006.