Mary Elizabeth Hickox Mandels, 90, bioenergy leader.
Mary E H Mandels, who spearheaded the US Army's national bioconversion studies for four decades and was an early proponent of conversion of waste biomass to readily bioconvertible sugars for the production of chemicals and transportation fuels such as ethanol, died 17 February 2008 at Natick, MA, USA.She was 90.
Affiliation: Biochemistry & Micxrobiology, SEBS, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA. email@example.com
Mary E H Mandels, who spearheaded the US Army's national bioconversion studies for four decades and was an early proponent of conversion of waste biomass to readily bioconvertible sugars for the production of chemicals and transportation fuels such as ethanol, died 17 February 2008 at Natick, MA, USA. She was 90.
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Figure 1: Images from Mary Mandels' career. Dr Mary Mandels was one of Natick's original employees of the Pioneering Research Laboratory. Her research included screening fungal cultures for their ability to produce cellulase and related enzymes. The purpose of the research was to increase the understanding of the deterioration of materials caused by fungal attack. From left to right: (a) Mary Mandels, 1917 to 2008: (b) US Army Hall of Fame, 1988; Natick Hall of Fame program cover; (c) Mary Mandels at the bench, Pioneering Research Laboratory, Natick, 1957; (d) The US Army Natick Pioneering Research Group, 1975: 1. Ed Black, 2. Dick Erickson, 3. David Sternberg, 4. Fred Allen, 5. Frank Snyder, 6. Frank Bisset, 7. Charlie Macy, 8. Ray Andreotti, 9. Curt Blodgett, 10. Marty Foncello, 11. Dr John Walsh, 12. Dr Aaron Bluhm, 13. military researcher, 14. Ben Gallo, 15. John Medieros, 16. Charles Roche, 17. Dr Carmine DiPetro, 18. Tom Tassinari, 19. Rosa Linda Bagalawis, 20. military researcher, 21. Mary Mandels, 22. Bob Mortenson, 23. Phil Hall, 24. Leo Spano, 25. Beverly Grant, 26. Edie Blodgett; (e) the Cellulase Laboratory, Pioneering Research Laboratory, 1975 (overview of the fermentor laboratory: six 14 litre fermentors (New Brunswick Scientific Co., Edison NJ, USA) plus a 30 litre seed and two production fermentors of 250 litre and 400 litre capacity, respectively); (f) US Congressional Energy Hearings, 1974: Congressman William Proxmire with Mary Mandels, Leo Spano and John Nystrom testifying (Congressman Proxmire was famed for his Golden Fleece award to those agencies that he thought had financially 'fleeced' the Government with arcane science; the US Army Natick program passed the 'fleece test' with flying colours); (g) The Natick Recycling Program as viewed by the local Press, 1974 (courtesy Worcester Telegram and Gazette); (h) Elwyn Reese and Mary Mandels: laboratory photo on the occasion of their receiving the Marvin Johnson Award, American Chemical Society, 1982; (i) insert cartoon of Elwyn Reese depicted as the mould Trichoderma and entitled 'The Fungus Factory' (Ray Andreotti artist); (j) Natick Cellulase Researchers: 'Cellulose as a Chemical & Energy Resource', University of California - Berkeley, 1974 (Andy Huang (postdoctorate), Mary Mandels, Elwyn Reese, John Nystrom, Bob Andren, Chul Kim (Korean AEC); (k) Natick Cellulase Group with visitors at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, May 1962: front row: (left to right) Chico Bomschell, Elwyn Reese, K Nisizawa (Tokyo, Japan), Nobuo Toyama (Miyasaki, Japan); second row: Mary Mandels, Keith Selby (Birmingham, UK); visitors while attending Advances in Enzyme Hydrolysis of Cellulose and Related Materials (American Chemical Society and US Army Symposium in Washington, DC); (l) the range of interests the US Army research programs: a selection of newspaper headings. Images courtesy of (a) Mandels' family; (b-e) US Army Pioneering Research Laboratory; (f) J Nystrom; (g) Worcester Telegram and Gazette; (h-j, l) Alfred A Allen; (k) D Eveleigh.
Dr Mandels spent her lifelong research career at the US Army Natick Research Laboratory (NLABS), just west of Boston, MA, USA (Figure 1a, b, c). Initially assigned to assess microbial deterioration of Army materials, her studies crisscrossed fundamental study of the cellulase enzyme from diverse microbial strains, to enzyme structure, to synergism between hydrolase components, and to large-scale enzyme production. Underpinning her studies was the need for a facile yet meaningful cellulase assay that took into consideration the insoluble and variable degree of crystallinity of the substrate, its changing nature during assay, and additionally the synergistic interaction of the multiple enzymes during hydrolysis. With her filter paper assay she mastered this broad requirement early on, as recognised in Citation Classics  (330 citations make it this journal's most cited paper in 1988).