sealPurdue Agriculture Briefs

July 2000

Purdue joins Midwest effort
to create biobased products

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – As this summer's gasoline prices soar skyward, Purdue University has joined with five other institutions to help the United States free itself from dependence on petroleum-based products.

Ames Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, Iowa State University, Michigan State University and the University of Illinois have joined with Purdue to form the Midwest Consortium for Sustainable Biobased Products and Bioenergy.

The consortium was created to develop new "green," environmentally friendly and renewable chemical products. Examples of these environmentally friendly technologies include plastics made from soybeans and fuel made from corn.

"The Midwest economy would greatly benefit from expanded use of its crops," says Randy Woodson, director of Purdue's Agricultural Research Program. "And reducing our country's need for petroleum – which is non-renewable and economically less stable – would also prove beneficial."

At Purdue, the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering, or LORRE (pronounced "Lori"), will work with the consortium in developing new biobased products. LORRE is directed by Michael Ladisch, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

According to Ladisch, key issues in converting plants to value-added products will be addressed. "Our laboratory will be involved in processing plant material into a reactive form and in creating cost efficient and environmentally safe catalysts that enable these conversions to be carried out," he says. "We will also develop genetically engineered microorganisms that will be used to produce specialty chemicals and ethanol from cellulose."

Woodson says the institutions involved in the consortium have all been conducting research to find additional uses for agricultural products. "By joining forces, we plan to draw on one another's strengths to develop products and industries that will benefit the entire Midwest," he says.

CONTACT: Randy Woodson, (765) 494-8362; Michael Ladisch, (765) 494-7022

Kiss and sell: Profs write economic 'Love Story'

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Students in a Purdue University agricultural economics course are learning about dollars and cents in a language they understand: the language of love.

"Life, Love and Economics," a textbook written by three Purdue professors, borrows a page from dime store romance novels to teach basic economic principles. The entry-level macroeconomics textbook follows two college graduates and the economic decisions they make as they meet, marry, take jobs and raise children.

The book was written by Robert W. Taylor, professor of agricultural economics, and Gavin Sinclair, assistant professor, and Dee Cuttell, adjunct professor, in the Department of Organizational Leadership and Supervision.

The three professors say they wrote the textbook to reach a generation of students turned off by traditional economics texts. "There are a lot of good economics texts. The trouble is, students don't like them," Taylor says.

The book tells the fictional story of Jason Cooley and Samantha Fletcher. Cooley, a graduate of "Bloomington University," meets Fletcher, an alumna of "West Lafayette University," while the two are in line at a frozen custard stand. They discover they've accepted positions at the same computer company, and their relationship blossoms from there.

Each chapter covers a different economic topic. In "The First Date: The Paycheck and Financial Planning Chapter," Jason learns about federal and state withholding taxes, Social Security and 401(k) plans. Chapter 9 – "Samantha Buys a House: The Real Estate Chapter" – takes the female lead through the rigors of realizing the American Dream. Other chapters deal with subjects such as financial planning, conservative vs. liberal economic philosophies, entrepreneurship, and welfare.

Sinclair says that while the economic lessons in the book are serious, the story is not. He says he and his co-writers "tried to outdo each other with corniness."

One such scene has Jason and Samantha on a dinner date whispering sweet nothings ... about savings plans. Jason thinks to himself, "I know I should be bored, but Samantha sure is cute when she talks economics." Later in the book, Jason explains the investment value of the engagement ring he's about to give Samantha.

There are no steamy interludes. The closest the book comes to a love scene is in Chapter 13, when Samantha leads Jason upstairs. "Apparently things were successful, because nine months later, Jason and Samantha's first child was born, Jason Junior," the next sentence reads.

Cuttell says some educators might frown on the treatment economics is given in the book, but he, Sinclair and Taylor are more concerned about connecting with students.

"We broke with tradition and produced a work that we believe students will read. And when students read, learning is likely to take place," Cuttell says.

"Life, Love and Economics" is published by Pearson Custom Publishing of Boston. The book wholesales for $42.50.

CONTACT: Robert W. Taylor, (765) 494-4211;; Gavin Sinclair, (765) 494-5611;; Dee Cuttell, (765) 496-3385;

Compiled by Steve Tally, (765) 494-9809;

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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