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Plenary Symposium: Botany in the World's Service

Brown, R. Malcolm, Jr. [1].

Botany in the World’s Service, focusing upon Nature’s Most Abundant Macromolecule, Cellulose.

Every time I take a flight, I try to select a window seat to view the earth’s surface from 38,000 feet. Why? I always renew my spirits knowing that from this altitude, besides the most prevalent geological features, one can see the green vegetation and also spot trees and vast forests. All of these are nature’s cellulose crops! Humanity depends upon cellulose for so many products ranging from wood for homes, buildings, paper, and to cotton for textiles, not to mention countless cellulose-based products. Also consider that plants, and for certain, land plants would not have been able to attain such great dimensions were it not for cellulose and lignin. I have spent the better part of the past 40 years studying the structure and biosynthesis of cellulose. My escapades have taken me long and far, from the reaches of microgravity, to the phylogeny and origin of vascular plant cellulose synthase, to the atomic and molecular structure of cellulose crystals and polymer chains, to cloning and sequencing cellulose synthase genes, not to mention producing cellulose in vitro and in a cell-free state. Where do these studies lead? For one, if we can discover new cellulose crops by microbes that have nitrogen fixation and photosynthesis and grow in a hyper saline environment, then it may be possible one of these days never to have to cut down trees in the forest to secure products for wood or paper! That is my life’s goal, and in parallel with this, our lab has recently invented electronic paper on real paper! This means essentially that someday the avid reader would only need one newspaper for his/her lifetime! One simply downloads the new information each day onto the same paper for a great reading experience! In the rather near future, cellulose will be the essential ingredient in tissue engineering and new wound care products, not to mention an essential ingredient of fuel cells, super batteries, reverse osmosis membranes, car and airplane body parts, as well as superb musical instruments. Yes, botany and the study of cellulose has given me a new perspective for life on our planet. I only hope that more people will come to understand the marvels of studying plants as I have experienced, thanks largely to my major professor, Dr. Harold C. Bold, who ‘pulled’ me into phycology from a pre-med career. Boy am I glad that he helped with this choice! My hat is off to the dedicated scientists and teachers of botany. Let’s be enthusiastic and continue to transmit and expand our knowledge for the future of our precious planet!

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1 - University of Texas at Austin, Section of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Austin, Texas, 78712, USA

Electronic paper
New global cellulose crops
Harold C. Bold
Novel applications of cellulose
Structure and Biochemistry
Molecular biology and phylogeny.

Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Session: 4-5
Location: Salon G - Austin Grand Ballroom/Hilton
Date: Monday, August 15th, 2005
Time: 10:45 AM
Abstract ID:529

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