The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) CEO Jay Keasling announced that Blake Simmons would be stepping into the role of Chief Science and Technology Officer (CSTO). Simmons, who joined JBEI in 2006 as Vice President for one of its divisions, continues to be Senior Manager of the Biofuels & Biomaterials Science and Technology Department at Sandia National Laboratories. JBEI is a multi-institutional partnership led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
“We are thrilled that Blake has agreed to take on this new role at JBEI,” said Keasling. “He brings a tremendous amount of multidisciplinary experience in chemical engineering, materials science, and renewable energy to our endeavor. Blake has been a strong leader of our Deconstruction efforts and has catalyzed important breakthroughs. We anticipate that with Blake in this new position, we will significantly advance our mission to produce advanced biofuels.” Simmons takes over from Harvey Blanch, who retired after serving as CSTO since 2007.
As the head of the Deconstruction division, Simmons has been responsible for overseeing the development of more energy-efficient and cost-effective methods to achieve the first step in bioenergy production: deconstructing biomass into fermentable sugars. Under his leadership, researchers have presented various strategies for affecting these goals, including novel methods for identifying microbes that naturally break down biomass within a microbial community, which then become sources for efficient enzyme cocktails that could be used in the biomanufacturing process. In addition, scientists have developed new techniques that do not require the use of expensive enzyme additives for pre-treating biomass and breaking it down into fuel sugars.
Simmons served in the Navy as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator (Electrician’s Mate) for six years. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Washington and a PhD from Tulane University, both in Chemical Engineering. He joined Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif., in 2001 as a member of the Materials Chemistry Department. In 2006, he was promoted to Manager of the Energy Systems department. His expertise includes biomass pretreatment, enzyme engineering, biofuel cells, nanomaterials, microfluidics, desalination, and silica biomineralization.
“In my new role as CSTO, my goal is to accelerate biofuels innovation across JBEI’s entire collaborative network, while ensuring that our research and development efforts align with industry needs and standards,” said Simmons. “With my colleagues, I look forward to creating an atmosphere that enables technical innovations that will lead to exciting technology transfer and business development opportunities.”
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JBEI is one of three Bioenergy Research Centers established by the DOE’s Office of Science in 2007. It is a scientific partnership led by Berkeley Lab and includes the Sandia National Laboratories, the University of California campuses of Berkeley and Davis, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. DOE’s Bioenergy Research Centers support multidisciplinary, multi-institutional research teams pursuing the fundamental scientific breakthroughs needed to make production of cellulosic biofuels, or biofuels from nonfood plant fiber, cost-effective on a national scale.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit www.lbl.gov.
Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.