December 16, 2021
Staff Accomplishment

Jonathan Male Named Co-Director of WSU-PNNL Bioproducts Institute

Bioenergy expert is excited about turning today’s waste into tomorrow’s carbon resource

Jonathan Male

Jonathan Male

(Photo by Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Jonathan Male, a chief scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), has been named the co-director of the Washington State University (WSU)-PNNL Bioproducts Institute.

Male joins Michael Wolcott, WSU associate vice president for research, as co-director. In this role, he replaces Johnathan Holladay, who left PNNL earlier this year.

“I was honored to be selected as PNNL co-director of the Bioproducts Institute,” said Male. “Johnathan and Michael have done a terrific job of setting up the institute.”

The Bioproducts Institute was established in 2018. It was designed for scientists and engineers to research ways to transform engineered plants and industrial, agricultural, forestry, and municipal wastes into valuable fuels, materials, and chemicals. It is also cultivating the next generation of bioproducts scientists and engineers.

“At the Bioproducts Institute, we’re focusing on reducing the environmental impacts of fuels and other products while retaining carbon that must stay in the economy,” said Male. “We’re learning how to manage carbon fluxes to supplement fossil carbon that’s embedded in fuels, chemicals, and materials.”

In other words, he said, “We’re turning today’s waste into tomorrow’s carbon resource.”

Much of the research in the Bioproducts Institute is conducted at the Bioproducts, Sciences, and Engineering Laboratory—or BSEL. The 57,000-square-foot research facility, which opened in 2008, is located on the campus of WSU Tri-Cities in Richland, Washington.

“BSEL serves as a natural central site for the Bioproducts Institute, having important impacts in bioproducts research across the PNNL and WSU complexes,” said Male. “For PNNL and our sponsor, the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office, BSEL’s capabilities are helping us make inroads in the science and engineering of energy sources from agricultural and forest residues and other sources.”

Male holds a joint appointment with WSU. He joined PNNL in 2006, where he held a variety of roles. This included performing research for projects in aftertreatment catalysts, scintillators, and catalysts for producing renewable chemicals.

He left PNNL in 2013 to take on the role of director of the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office. There, he led the effort to lower bioenergy costs, reduce the uncertainty of newer technologies, and accelerate research and development of bioenergy and renewable chemical technologies in the emerging bioeconomy.

Male returned to the scene of the science—PNNL—in 2020 as a chief scientist. As co-director of the Bioproducts Institute, he’s excited about the impact the research is having on industry.

“Recently, a team at the institute gathered and condensed responses from a sustainable aviation fuel workshop that addressed important questions and helped establish a pathway for that fuel,” said Male. “Program leaders from the Federal Aviation Administration were extremely grateful for the information and thorough responses.”