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Chemistry/BMB Grad Student Wins 2020 Jennifer L. Reed Bioenergy Science Award

Photo of Gracielou Klinger
Gracielou Klinger

Gracielou Klinger, an MSU graduate student in the Chemistry and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology departments is the recipient of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center’s (GLBRC) 2020 Jennifer L. Reed Bioenergy Science Award.

The award recognizes an early career woman who has made notable contributions to the GLBRC research portfolio.  As part of her Ph.D. research with Professors Ned Jackson (Chemistry) and Eric Hegg (BMB), Gracielou has been developing novel, bio-inspired ways to break down lignin for conversion into biofuels.

Gracielou Klinger likes to describe the sulfur-based chemicals she uses in her research at Michigan State University as “smelly.” Lignin has a high energy content and many potential uses, but it is most often burned in factories as fuel. Other uses would require breaking the tough molecule apart into smaller molecules. The challenge is to do this without decreasing the energy content, and that’s where Klinger’s research and the smelly chemicals come in.

In her graduate work, Gracielou has developed an organic catalytic reaction to cleave key ether linkages in lignin, and has filed a patent on the method.

In addition to excelling in the lab, she also completed a science communication internship at the Shedd Aquarium and worked in the patent office of MSU Technologies, helping other researchers get their ideas patented.