By Jordan Cox

Lance Seefeldt Receives The D. Wynne Thorne Career Research Award

In conjunction with Research Week - a series of events recognizing the research efforts of students and faculty at Utah State University - Lance Seefeldt, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, gave the D. Wynne Thorne Career Researcher Award lecture.
The D. Wynne Thorne Career Researcher Award annually recognizes a researcher at USU who has made significant advancements in their field. The award, established in 1980, is considered one of the highest awards offered by the university.
Seefedlt, who receives support from the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station, has devoted his research career to the study of nitrogenase as found in the natural world. Nitrogenase, an enzyme that allows plants to pull nitrogen from the atmosphere, provides nitrogen for 40% of the food produced throughout the world. But plants are much better than humans at producing nitrogen.
“We are swimming in nitrogen but we can’t get our hands on it, it’s inert.” Seefeldt said when referring to the unbalanced cycle of nitrogen. Seefelt investigates the genetic modification of plants to increase the production of nitrogen, modify plants to digest carbon dioxide through nitrogenase, and produce methane fuel while purifying the atmosphere.
Nitrogenase provides the only means for living organisms to convert nitrogen  ?  which constitutes 80 percent of air  ?  into a usable form. Seefeldt’s work has led to a new understanding of how a nitrogen molecule is reduced by nitrogenase to yield two ammonia molecules.
While his nitrogenase research continues to thrive, in recent years Seefeldt has initiated a new research program in his laboratory on the feasibility of using algae as a source of biofuels such as biodiesel, according to the USU Office of Research. With colleagues in engineering, Seefeldt was a major player in the establishment of the USTAR Biofuels team at USU, and is one of its founding members.
See the video here. Apart from conducting groundbreaking research, Seefeldt also emphasizes the involvement of students in his work.  His undergraduate university gave him ample time to interact with professors. “I wonder if students have the opportunity to get to know faculty outside the classroom,” Seefeldt remarked. 
Over his career, Seefeldt has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles with over 200 student co-authors.  The scientific community has referenced his publications more than 3000 times, positioning Seefeldt internationally as an expert on nitrogenase etymology. 
“Life can be a succession of glorious successions or monotonous bore, make your choice.”  Seefield feels he has, “made his choice,” and he encourages students and faculty to pattern their research after their passions.
More information about Seefeldt’s work and the Wynn Thorne Career Research Award is available at:

Writer: Jordan Cox, 435-797-2189