Tim Donohue named director of the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative

Bacteriologist Timothy Donohue has been appointed Director of the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative (WBI) by Dean Jahn. In that position, he will seek to strengthen connections between the hundreds of researchers, educators and entrepreneurs with expertise in bioenergy who work on UW-System campuses, in state agencies, federal research programs located in the state, as well as throughout Wisconsin’s private sector.

“I’m looking forward to helping all of these partners pool efforts to advance and share bioenergy knowledge to make Wisconsin the nation’s premier producer of energy from biomass,” says Donohue.

The Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative was established this year to showcase and coordinate UW-System research, extension and training efforts in bioenergy. The WBI coordinated the recent submission of a proposal to establish a Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center at UW-Madison. The Wisconsin proposal was among those selected for further review by a DOE panel. Donohue was part of a team that traveled to Washington, D.C. at the end of May to discuss the proposal with the DOE reviewers. DOE is expected to make its final site selections soon.

The WBI, however, is anchored across the UW System and has a much broader focus, including sustainability and energy conservation.

“Right now, we are working hard to gather a complete inventory of the experts working in the area of bioenergy and developing a plan to coordinate efforts across the UW-System and other state agencies, such as the newly formed Office of Energy Independence,” Donohue says.

Donohue has more than 25 years of experience in studying solar energy conversion and the capacity of microbes to produce alternative fuels from sunlight, plant material or renewable resources. He has served as an advisor for several U.S. Department of Energy bioenergy programs. These include the Genomics:Genomes to Life Program and Biomass to Biofuels programs of the Biological and Environmental Research Directorate and the Solar Energy program of the Basic Energy Sciences Directorate.

Donohue has also served as director of the UW-Madison Biotechnology Predoctoral Training Program for 10 years. That position gave him considerable experience promoting research at the interface of the biological and physical sciences, which will help him marshal the cross-disciplinary expertise needed to develop new bioenergy strategies, says Dean Jahn.

“Tim’s experience and his leadership will be instrumental in helping Wisconsin’s realize the benefits that come from producing energy from biomass and waste streams here in the region rather than importing energy,” said Dean Jahn. “As a community, we have tremendous capacity in the plant sciences including forestry, in the microbial sciences, and in engineering and relevant social sciences. Tim and other faculty and staff leaders will provide critical coordination and alignment as we turn to face the energy challenges of this century.”

In his position as WBI director, Donohue will oversee programs aimed at:

  • Promoting research, training and outreach initiatives in bioenergy production
  • Developing the scientific, engineering and agricultural programs to devise cost-effective and sustainable plant or microbial systems for renewable energy production
  • Establishing educational, industrial and public sector partnerships to support increased use of biofuels
  • Fostering efforts to bring new bioenergy technologies or companies to Wisconsin
  • Making the UW system and the State of Wisconsin worldwide leaders in the bioenergy marketplace

To add your name to the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative, please visit