Cornish joins panel charged with steering course of biofuels R&D

Katrina Cornish

Katrina Cornish, an internationally recognized authority on alternative natural rubber biosynthesis and production, has been appointed to an independent panel responsible for advising the federal Biomass Research and Development Initiative.

The initiative is a collaboration between the U.S. departments of energy and agriculture to advance bioenergy technologies, specifically to find new ways to refine various types of feedstocks and crops into next-generation biofuels or bio-based chemicals and products.

Cornish’s appointment to the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee is for an initial three-year term. Made up of approximately 30 volunteers from industry, academia, nonprofits and local government, the committee holds quarterly, public meetings to develop recommendations advising the secretaries of energy and agriculture on the technical focus and direction of federal research and development.

In her new role, Cornish, shown on the left in the photo, hopes to bring more attention—and more funding—to promising alternative crops, and less on the more common sources of biofuels, such as corn.

“Some of the smaller technologies and crops can make a much larger impact on the economy and bio-economy than what is currently seeing most of the money,” she said.

Cornish joined Ohio State’s Horticulture and Crop Science and Food Agricultural and Biological Engineering departments at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster in 2010 as an Ohio Research Scholar. She holds the Endowed Chair in Bio-based Emergent Materials in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and is director of research for the Program of Excellence in Natural Rubber Alternatives.

Before coming to Ohio State, and before her six-year stint in industry, she led the USDA’s development of domestic natural rubber and rubber latex sources, and her inventions form the foundation of the U.S. domestic rubber industry. Her startup company, EnergyEne, is producing a high-performance natural rubber alternative that allows medical professionals to have the natural latex gloves they prefer while avoiding the risk of allergic reactions.

A fellow of the National Academy of Inventors and American Association for the Advancement of Science, Cornish has 225 publications and about 20 patents. She holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham, England.