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Fall 2009
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SPECIAL FEATURE

Outstanding Alumni Awards

Larry P. WalkerLarry P. Walker is a professor in the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering (BEE) and Director of the Northeast Sun Grant Institute of Excellence.

Joining the Cornell faculty in 1979 as an assistant professor with a research and extension appointment, he began a dialogue with New York State farmers and other stakeholders on the role of agriculture as a provider of energy. Also at this time Walker began to lead a number of renewable energy research projects focused on biomass conversion to energy. One research project that had a lasting impact on Professor Walker was his role as director of the Integrated Energy Efficient Dairy Farm (aka: the Space Farm). This was a team project involving two CALS alumni: the late Ronald Space, Sr. ‘53 and Ronald Space, II ‘81. This project provided an important opportunity for Walker to learn about the opportunities and challenges of integrating energy conservation and renewable energy technology into agriculture.

Walker is known within the Cornell community for tirelessly working as a mentor to countless students. In 2006, he was recognized with the Alice H. Cook & Constance E. Cook Award for this work. Recognized for his excellence in teaching in 1997, Walker was awarded the Stephen ‘57 and Marilyn Miles College of Engineering Outstanding Teaching Award. During his Cornell career, he has had over seventy-five undergraduate students participate in his research program with eight undergraduates currently working with his research team. Several of his former Ph.D. students have gone on to lead research and education programs at several prestigious universities across the globe.

Walker organized faculty from multiple departments in three colleges into a cluster called, “Sustainable Agriculturally-Based BioIndustries Cluster (SABBIC).” Following the tradition of Liberty Hyde Bailey, Walker and the SABBIC faculty bring the scientific and technological revolution to rural communities. Under Walker’s leadership, the SABBIC faculty secured more than $2 million dollars in funding from the United States Department of Agriculture, Multidisciplinary Graduate Education and Training Program (MGET), focused on sustainable agriculturally-based bioindustries in support of multidisciplinary graduate education traineeships. The SABBIC interdisciplinary group of faculty and graduate students continues today in the form of the Northeast Sun Grant Institute of Excellence. The objective of the Sun Grant Initiative is to reduce American dependence on foreign sources of oil by tapping the enormous source of carbon produced on American farms (biomass) for further processing into energy and industrial chemicals. As Director of the Northeast Sun Grant Institute of Excellence, Walker leads a fourteen-state regional research and economic development competitive grants program focused on biofuels and bioproducts.

In January of 2009, Cornell’s $10 million, cutting-edge Biofuels Research Laboratory (BRL) opened. Walker, as Director of the BRL, along with his SABBIC team of engineers, scientists, and students from across Cornell are studying every phase of biofuel production, a method that frees sugars from perennial grasses and woody biomass and biologically converts them into fuels like ethanol, butanol, and hydrogen.

Walker has received numerous awards in his career. He received the New York Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR) Faculty Development Award in 2006, the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at Michigan State University in 2007, and the Outstanding Alumnus Award from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University in 2008. He was also honored by Howard University in 1996 with the Outstanding Achievement Award for his mentoring of minority students. In 2009 Walker was elected as a fellow in the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering. Walker serves as co-editor in chief of the highly successful Industrial Biotechnology: The Journal of Biobased Industries. This journal links ground breaking research with world-changing industrial biotech companies and is the primary venue for communication between meetings.

Walker lives in Ithaca, NY with his wife, Nadine, and their 2 daughters, Leah and Lynne.

 

Outstanding Alumni Awards