Regents Professor
Sitting in what might be the most well organized office on campus and glued to his computer screen, Norman Lewis, is very excited — and for good reason.
A fellow, professor and director at the Institute of Biological Chemistry, Lewis just learned that he and his research team are getting a new USDA grant for up to $839,909.
The grant will fund research aiming to examine strategies for generating biofuels and bioproducts.
“Our fuel stocks do not match our future needs,” he said. “It took millions of years to form the petroleum we use, and we’ve used much of it up in the last 100 years!”
New work aside, Lewis is already a research star, having pioneered contemporary understanding of the biological chemistry of phenylpropanoids.
His research primarily focuses on how land-based plants, those with a structural vascular apparatus, produce lignins ­— the products that gives plants their rigidity. (For additional information, see related article at, then search “lignin.”)

This research extends into considering how certain nonfood plants can be modified to help resolve the current energy crisis and supply for the future. Additionally, he is investigating how the nutritionally and medicinally important (related) lignins are formed; these are used currently in preventing and treating cancer.

As a newly named Regents Professor, Lewis points to his research team for his continued success. “Laurence Davin, Diana Bedgar, Mike Costa and Terri Lincoln have been with us for a long time and they are our key personnel,” said Lewis. “They deserve recognition.”

Lewis also is widely recognized for his record of undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral training. He says he is proud of every single person he has mentored, from those who have gone on to international research acclaim to those who found happiness out of academia. One can only imagine.

About the awards

The Regents professor promotion honors the highest level of international distinction in the discipline that raises university standards through teaching, scholarship and public service.