Two MU professors were chosen among experts from around the nation to speak at the inaugural Southeastern Conference Symposium on Monday in Athens, Ga.
Shibu Jose, director of the MU Center of Agroforestry, and Hank Stelzer, chair of the MU forestry department, spoke in the Monday opening of the two-day conference, entitled “Impact of the Southeast in the World’s Renewable Energy Future.” Faculty and administration from the 14 SEC member universities presented research conducted on the title subject.
Jose and Stelzer were chosen to represent MU to present findings from their individual biofuel projects. Jose gave a presentation dealing with a collaborative research project he leads that has the goal of creating sustainable biomass production systems to help push biofuels to be an alternative fuel source in the future.
"I am glad they chose the topic of renewable energy as it has got great relevance in our everyday life,” Jose said. “Meeting the energy needs of a growing population is a challenge that we must face as a global community. The world population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. We need to increase food production by 70 percent and energy by 50 percent by then."
The process of selecting speakers like Jose for the two-day symposium has been in motion since 2011, said Torie Johnson, executive director of the SEC’s academic initiative SECU.
“We have been working with the lead institution (University of Georgia) local organizing committee for nearly 18 months,” Johnson said in an email. “The topic was selected in May 2011, and we started developing the program shortly thereafter, which included securing speakers from all 14 SEC member universities. As we worked on the program, we also expanded our focus to the location and other logistical concerns.”
Along with the scheduled presentation sessions, universities were given the chance to present more research on the topic at booths at the “Poster Exhibition,” according to the Symposium website. Student submissions were also accepted and awards will be given at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral level. An “excellence in student attendance” award will be given to the university with the largest number of registered undergraduates at the end of the symposium.
“With this being our first event, we did not know what to expect once we were underway,” Johnson said. “However, we have strong attendance and we are receiving positive feedback from all of our constituents. So, I am pleased. There is always room to grow and improve, but I believe we have provided a tremendous forum for our faculty, administrators and students.”
Jose said that the symposium is an excellent opportunity for the SEC to progress in the field of renewable energy.
"I believe the SEC is leading the way in organizing a major academic conference by leveraging their strength and success as an athletic conference," Jose said. "It has been a great opportunity for us, the administrators, faculty, staff and students from MU to represent our great university and showcase our strengths in renewable energy research and extension at this first SEC Research Symposium. We are the ‘new kid on the block,' but the SEC family is treating us very well."
How often the symposium will be held has not been decided yet, but the intent is for it to become a recurring event, Johnson said.
“The SEC Symposium is intended to be a regular event of significance for the Southeastern Conference,” she said. “The final decision on its frequency rests with our SEC Presidents and Chancellors, and that determination has not been made at this point.”