More than 200 researchers gathered for the Center for Bioenergy Innovation’s annual science meeting in June 2023. Credit: Carlos Jones, ORNL/U.S. Dept. of Energy

CBI researchers assemble for annual science meeting

More than 200 researchers gathered in June to share progress on the pursuit of scientific innovations for sustainable aviation fuel and a robust bioeconomy at the Center for Bioenergy Innovation’s 2023 annual science meeting.

The three-day session held in Asheville, North Carolina, opened with a welcome from CBI Chief Executive Jerry Tuskan and a series of presentations from teams focused on consolidated bioprocessing, computational biology and rapid genetics.

At a panel on career pathways, guests included Sharlene Weatherwax, recently retired as associate director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research, as well as speakers from industry, universities and national labs. Weatherwax and the other panelists engaged in a candid discussion about the twists and turns their own careers had taken. The speakers encouraged young scientists to be mindful of the many paths a career in bioscience can take as the nation looks to biologically sourced solutions for its most pressing challenges in addressing climate change and decarbonization.

Sixty science posters were presented at two sessions, with a focus on the work of early career researchers. CBI also presented awards for a lightning talk competition at the meeting.

The second day featured an insightful keynote on the role of extensins, or plant wall proteins, in the growth of sturdy, flexible plant cell walls from guest speaker Daniel Cosgrove of Penn State. More presentations followed by science teams in the areas of deconstruction, lignin valorization, switchgrass and poplar. Lunch featured a diversity, equity and inclusion and outreach talk headed by Liz Ware from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The final day concluded with sessions on economics and land use modeling, catalytic upgrading, sustainable aviation fuel and a meeting of the CBI Science Industry and Advisory Board.

“Attendees told us they appreciated the opportunity to meet in person around an agenda that encouraged interactive, synergistic discussions with colleagues,” Tuskan said. “We plan to keep encouraging an atmosphere conducive to those useful conversations throughout the year and at future meetings.”

CBI, led by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is one of four bioenergy research centers in the United States sponsored by the DOE’s Office of Science BER program. UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. The Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit