USDA Microbiologist Honored by Research
Agency By Ben
February 7, 2001
PEORIA, Ill., Feb. 7Christopher D. Skory, a
microbiologist with USDAs
Agricultural Research Service here, has
won an agency award for his research on bioengineering microorganisms that may
be used to convert agricultural materials into more highly valued products.
The Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDAs chief
research agency, named Skory as an Early Career Research Scientist of
2000." Hes based at the National
Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR) here.
Dr. Skory has developed innovative research in fungal molecular
biology. For example, he recently developed strains of the fungus
Rhizopus oryzae that may one day be used for the industrial
production of lactic acid from renewable resources.
Lactic acid is the building block of polylactic acid (PLA)
plastic. The plastic is similar to polyethylene terephthalate or PET used in
Skory has applied for a patent on his invention which may help
usher in widespread use of truly biodegradable plastic milk jugs and soda
bottles that dont hang around landfills for ages. Some of the new strains
are being tested for their potential through a Cooperative Research and
Development Agreement with Archer-Daniels-Midland Company of Decatur, Illinois.
Lactic acid and its derivatives have many uses other than for
plastics. For example, lactic acid is commonly used in foods ranging from soda
to sausages because it preserves, enhances flavor or imparts desired acidity.
Derivatives of lactic acid such as the solvent ethyl lactate can also be used
in manufacturing electronic products, cosmetics textiles, paints, adhesives,
de-inkers and degreasers. Environmentally friendly, chlorine-free ethyl lactate
some day could supplant most of the present 3.8 million-ton market for
In other research, Skorys made several important
biotechnological discoveries that are being used by other scientists to learn
how aflatoxin, a contaminant of grains and nuts, is produced by the fungus
Aspergillus parasiticus. And hes now involved in developing novel
strategies that use bioengineered plants and microorganisms to improve the
economics of converting agricultural biomass to fuel ethanol.
Skory was selected as the top young scientist in the ARS Midwest
Area. He is one of eight early career scientists of the year to be
recognized in a February 7 awards ceremony at the agencys
Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural
Research Center, Beltsville, Maryland. Each scientist will receive a
plaque, a cash award and additional research funding.
Early career awardees have done research of
potentially major impact while being with ARS 7 years or less and have received
their highest academic degrees in the last 10 years.
A native of Midland, Michigan, Skory received a bachelors
degree and a masters degree fromWestern Michigan University and a
doctorate in food science from Michigan State University, E. Lansing. Since
joining ARS in 1995, he has authored or coauthored 16 publications.
Scientific contact: Christopher D. Skory, USDA-ARS,
National Center for Agricultural
Utilization Research, Peoria, Ill., phone (309) 681-6275; fax number (309)