Three years ago, Dennis Darnall was comfortably and, one would have thought, firmly entrenched in the groves of academe. As professor of chemistry at New Mexico State University and director of the school's science research center, he held a position of high rank. And thanks to federal and state grants, he even had the opportunity to indulge in his scientific passion: devising ways that algae could be used to recover metal from industrial wastewaters. A scientist's paradise? Not for Darnall; he yearned for something more.  

        So in January 1986, he and three of his fellow faculty members founded Bio-recovery Systems Inc., specializing in the development of innovative approaches to industrial trash recycling based on waste-eating algae. Today, instead of toiling in the confines of a classroom or university lab, the 46-year-old Darnall--the new company's president--spends much of his time touring the country, seeking clients for...

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