December 5, 2008

A Chinese documentary film will highlight past and present tobacco research at the University of Kentucky. The film honors the contributions of UK alumnus T.C. Chu, also known as Zhu ZunQuan, to the Chinese and international tobacco industries.

Chu's passion for tobacco research began in UK's College of Agriculture, where he studied under UK Plant Pathologist W. D. Valleau, a leading tobacco scientist at the time.

"The documentary focuses on 60 years of tobacco science, and that started at the College of Agriculture at the University of Kentucky," said Mingwu Cui, a senior scientist for the United States Smokeless Tobacco Company, who studied at UK and under Chu in China. Cui served as a translator for the film crew during their visit. 

After graduating from UK in 1949 with a master's degree in agriculture, Chu returned to his native country. Over the years, Chu helped improve the quality and increase domestic production of tobacco in China. In the 1960s, he conducted a survey on flue-cured tobacco and created a 17-level standard that received recognition from the Chinese National Bureau of Standards. He also directed a program focused on reducing the amount of tar and other harmful components of leaf tobacco in the 1980s. Chu still is actively involved with tobacco research and was the 2008 recipient of the CORESTA Congress Prize. CORESTA is the international society for tobacco research.

            Michael Barrett and David Smith, chairs of the departments of plant and soil sciences and plant pathology, respectively, indicated that the international acclaim received by Chu is a testament to the historical and ongoing quality of UK's tobacco programs.

"It's a recognition of the strength that our tobacco program has had over many, many years," Smith said. "It indicates the college's status as a leader in tobacco breeding and pathology."

"For a former student to become so successful, it's a major recognition for the college and the training our faculty and staff give to students," Barrett said.

Lowell Bush, Philip Morris professor of plant biology at UK, has made several trips to China over the years and has met Chu a few times.

"Chu was instrumental in bringing some of the students and visiting professors to Kentucky," he said.

The Chinese film crew visited sites of previous and current tobacco research at the university including a former tobacco research building, Scovell Hall, Spindletop Research Farm and the Kentucky Tobacco Research and Development Center. They also talked with current tobacco professionals about the history of UK tobacco research and current research projects at the university.

"It's a good opportunity to showcase our tobacco programs and celebrate a former student, who has gone on to make significant contributions to the tobacco industry," said Bob Pearce, UK extension tobacco specialist.

The documentary film was made possible through China's State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, Chinese National Science Foundation and Tobacco Institute. The film will be distributed to tobacco industry professionals in China and could possibly be seen on China's National Television.

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