Two representatives of Finger Lakes Community College will present their research on the cultivation of mushroom sugars this week at an international conference in Spain.
James Hewlett, professor of biology, and Jessica Halliley, an instructional specialist, were invited to share their work at the 8th International Conference on Bio-based and Biodegradable Polymers, or BIOPOL 2022, in Alicante, Spain, which runs from Nov. 14-16.
Hewlett and Halliley have been working with students since early 2021 on a research and development project for a Henrietta-based company, Empire Medicinals, which grows gourmet mushrooms under the brand Leep Foods.
Empire Medicinals is exploring a faster way to grow the mushroom fibers, or mycelia, via fermentation in tanks for its food business and the aspiration behind its name: the dietary supplement market.
The FLCC team is exploring the conditions that lead to the greatest production of the fibers and the sugars they produce, which are studied for their health effects. The project is a demonstration of how community colleges can support local companies with basic research.
Hewlett is also executive director of the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative, a National Science Foundation-funded project based at FLCC. The goal of CCURI is to help two-year intuitions across the country teach science through research.
“This is an amazing recognition for the work that our students have been engaged in for the last one and a half years,” Hewlett said of the opportunity to present at BIOPOL. The conference is part of an NSF-funded European tour that also includes stops in Ireland and Belgium to encourage international research and educational collaborations in a variety of technology fields.