Scientific advances and the efforts of a local association of researchers are now available literally at a touch of a button.

A new series of podcasts, featuring the work of the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative produced under the title USTAR Radio, is accessible at the link

"We're attempting to reach out to a broader audience about the unique mission and varied endeavors associated with USTAR," said Michael O'Malley, USTAR's marketing and communications director. "A podcast is a simple, accessible way for us to reach people who may be interested in our work who can listen to the message on their own time."

The first is aimed at the broadest audience possible — anyone interested in the current energy crisis. It features Jeff Muhs, executive director of the Sustainable Energy Laboratory at Utah State University. Muhs' podcast, "From Gunk to Gas," explores the realistic concept of producing biofuels from algae domestically vs. sourcing fossil fuel from overseas.

"This is an example of when the science of USTAR intersects with the very real concerns of the average citizen," O'Malley said.

During the five-minute-plus podcast, Muhs explores a wide range of topics and trends including:

• How algae-based biofuels promise to be a more productive, second-generation approach vs. first-generation corn-based ethanol production.

• How developing new technologies requires a multidisciplinary approach, combining sciences from engineering to fiber optics to analysis of specific algae strains.

• How algae production has the promise of creating "green-collar" jobs, particularly in places such as Utah, with its high number of sunny days.

Muhs oversees a USTAR-funded project to explore the production of biofuels using sophisticated bio-reactors that grow oil-rich algae. The USU team is working hard to reduce America's dependence on foreign energy supplies and make algae-based fuel production a cost-effective alternative energy source.

USTAR is a long-term, state-funded initiative aimed at strengthening Utah's "knowledge economy" by raising the profile of research and researchers at the University of Utah and USU. The goal is to attract more world-class scientists to Utah and increase innovation through teamwork and state-of-the art facilities on the two campuses.

The initiative also encourages alliances among researchers, companies and entrepreneurs across the state to promote private-sector innovation and commercialization to create high-paying, science-related jobs.

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