Professor Janet Westpheling knew early on she wanted to be a scientist. Today, her research at the intersection of academic and industrial microbiology addresses some of the most pressing energy issues of our time. The University of Georgia professor speaks with Fred about her upbringing, her work at The Center for Bioenergy Innovation, and her role as an educator and champion of scientific inquiry inside and outside of the lab. 

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Professor Janet Westpheling, University of Georgia 

Janet Westpheling is a Professor in the Department of Genetics at the University of Georgia. As a university professor, Westpheling teaches undergraduate and graduate classes in genetics and trains undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs in her research laboratory. Her current research is focused on the development of genetic technologies for micro-organisms that convert lignocellulosic biomass to biofuels and industrial chemicals and is funded by grants from the Department of Energy. She is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Society for Biological Engineering, and associate editor for the Journal of Biotechnology for Biofuels. She is an Activity Lead and member of the BioEnergy Science Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory/Department of Energy. She holds patents for microbial genetic technologies and is an active consultant to industries involved in the metabolic engineering of micro-organisms for the production of fuels, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. She is currently President of the Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology. Her research and teaching activities bridge the gap between academic and industrial microbiology.

About Key Conversations 


Key Conversations with Phi Beta Kappa is a podcast featuring in-depth conversations between Fred Lawrence, Secretary/CEO of Phi Beta Kappa, and Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars. With a new episode released monthly, each podcast invites listeners to take a seat at the table to learn more about the featured Scholar's background, research, and how they have taken their respective paths to where they are now, and where they are headed. 

Since 1956, the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program has been offering undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America's most distinguished scholars. The purpose of the program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the campus by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students.​

Our Host

Our Host

Frederick M. Lawrence is the 10th Secretary and CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. An accomplished scholar, teacher and attorney, he is one of the nation’s leading experts on civil rights, free expression, and bias crimes. Learn More.

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