Soil Biochemist Matt Morra Advises the University of Idaho Cycling Club
Written by Bill Loftus
MOSCOW, Idaho – When University of Idaho soil biochemist Matt Morra needs an energy boost, he heads out to spin his wheels.
An avid cyclist, he enjoys racing and serves as advisor to the University of Idaho Cycling club, which will co-sponsor the Northwest Collegiate Cycling Championship April 23-24 with Washington State University's cycling club.
Some 200 racers from the 17 schools in the Northwest conference will visit the Palouse for a Saturday road race based in Palouse, Wash., followed by team time trials that afternoon at Genesee, Idaho.
On Easter Sunday, the racers will compete in a timed campus criterium on the University of Idaho campus. The event will be held outside the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences where Morra serves as a professor of soil and land resources.
After hours spent on research, Morra said, the physical demands of cycling are his way to relax. "It's like a rest, a time to get away from everything and concentrate on just getting from Point A to Point B," said Morra, who joined the Idaho faculty in 1986. "I do think it has a positive influence on the academic side because I come back to work refreshed and with a new vigor."
The energy balance Morra achieves through cycling produced results Tuesday. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a $599,210 grant to a University of Idaho team led by Morra, food scientist Caleb Nindo and biological and agricultural engineer Brian He. Their project is among some $36 million worth of projects nationally focused on sustainable bioenergy development.
The project will focus on creating value-added products from oilseeds used to produce biofuels, a particularly important feedstock in the Northwest.
The University of Idaho Cycling club includes 17 registered racers and six non-racing members. As advisor, Morra trains with the team but does not compete. He does race independently.
In 2009 Morra won the 18-mile I Made the Grade Race, which challenges riders to climb nearly 2,000 feet of elevation on the eight-mile Spiral Highway near Lewiston, Idaho.
The exercise is its own reward, Morra said. "For me it's like eating and breathing. It's something I have to do; it keeps me sane."
For Morra, serving as advisor to the cycling team is rewarding, too. The team is funded by the Associated Students University of Idaho, which requires a match from sponsors. For the Easter weekend racing, the club is seeking volunteers to help run the races and to offer accommodations to visiting racers.
More information about the University of Idaho Cycling is online at http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/uicycling/
. More information about the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture sustainable bioenergy grant program is available at http://www.nifa.usda.gov/newsroom/news/2011news/04121_bioenergy.html